Are you a good conversationalist? It’s a critically important skill to succeed: For job seekers looking to land a new position and for companies, large and small, marketing their products and services. Today’s high impact conversations are online.

Being able to strike up a good conversation is key to achieving your goals,
whether you are interviewing for a job, commenting on a blog, or deal-making on the golf course.

When I prepare candidates for interviews, I focus on techniques to engage in conversation. As I like to say, “The best interviews are dialogues – questions and answers. They are conversations. People who engage their interviewers and ask the best questions are usually the ones who win the job.”

When you talk with people, personally and professionally, it’s important to know where they are coming from. In business, do a little research beforehand by googling their name. This will give you a window into what they are interested in. Learning about people and preparing – before your conversations – will take you a long way and help to distinguish you.

Mastering the conversation is key in the online world and social media. In all businesses, marketing and media are taking a greater role relative to sales. Carrying effective online conversations can be the difference in making or breaking an opportunity.

There’s an art to having a great conversation.
It’s about connecting with people in memorable ways – on an emotional level.

Good conversationalists know how to start conversations, ask engaging questions and respond thoughtfully. Great conversationalists are excellent listeners, ask questions about others’ interests, and make people feel good about the experience. (Yes, conversations should be an “experience”.)

The greatest conversationalists are memorable: They influence a person’s thinking in positive ways for the better. A proactive, upbeat communication style – when talking and writing – sprinkled with a little wit and humor goes a long way.

Three steps to having a great conversation:
1. Find out a little about people before you talk with them.
2. Take the initiative and connect with people you are interested in.
3. Be curious. Ask questions. Listen. Be open and natural. Use voice inflection.

Conversation platforms are: online (writing), phone (talking) and in-person meeting (seeing). Skype is interesting because it combines elements of all three. Whether you are writing or talking, smile and good thoughts will flow.

Keep in mind the engagement points.

If you look at my Twitter profile, you’ll see my interests: “travel, cars, wine, skiing” and “very fun dad!” These are my engagement points. Each person has them. With other social media like LinkedIn and Facebook, you can find out where people live, where they work, where they went to school. Anyone who strikes up a conversation with me on these, online or off, I’ll naturally engage.

Hung by my PC in my office are visual reminders of what I keep in mind throughout the day. One is from Mike Lipkin, a motivational speaker, who shares how to maximize conversations:

How To Make Every Conversation Count
1. Be excited by the prize.
2. Be inspired by your purpose.
3. Be masterful through your preparation.
4. Be connected through your caring.
5. Be focused by your listening.
6. Be magnetic in your language.
7. Be inviting through your openness.
8. Be responsive through your improvisation.
9. Be deliberate in your practice.
10. Be consistent through your conditioning.

Whether you are in sales or marketing, at a networking event or at a social party, striking up and holding great conversations is at the core of everything we do – and of achieving success. It starts with a positive frame of mind and a smile.