Why did I pick up this book?
I did not realise that my skills at meeting new people were severely compromised as I always walk away with a ton of business cards and meaningful connections from all the start-up/venture capital networking events. That mirage was shattered about 3 weeks back when I found myself at a social event where I knew just 2-3 people and NONE of them were interested in start-ups. I realised that I did not have any interesting discussion topics to initiate and build a conversation on and found myself unusually tongue tied.
Initially I blamed this on being out of practice because as a salesperson I was a master at building rapport with my customers but as I dug deeper I quickly realised that most of those interactions were transactional in nature (where I was saving my conversational partner tons of money) so there was a reason why they were being kept in the conversation. I finally concluded that I did not have any skills at networking in a crowd that I had (seemingly) nothing to offer.
It was this realisation that initiated the quest to look for a book that will help me with overcoming this handicap. A few searches and reviews later I found a book that had tons of great reviews and a title that echoed with what I wanted to achieve.
Where can one buy this book?
I could not find a Kindle edition on Amazon.in so I opted to buy the paperback edition which is available here.
What is this book about?
Debra Fine introduces the concept of “casual conversation” which is, paraphrasing Debra, a way to open conversations beyond the usual “business talk” or “polite talk” that most of us engage in when we are at networking events. Debra encourages the reader to dig deeper into a conversation so that the reader can understand their conversation partner better and build a meaningful connection.
The author provides lists of topics to speak about, the should do and should not-dos, the pitfalls and even the way to exit conversations gracefully. The objective of the book is to get the inner introvert in most of us to learn the skills of conversation opening, maintaining and (most importantly) graceful ways to exit a conversation.
What do I love about this book?
I love Debra’s direct but structured approach. It is obvious that she is writing this book from personal experience because many of her simple tips and techniques seemed like common sense approaches when I read them but, in all honesty, I would not have done them without her nudge.
Secondly, the conciseness of the book must be appreciated because Debra could have gotten into deeper details and written a book with twice the number of pages and most like lost my interest half way through. However, the direct approach kept the book at a meagre 139 pages, so it can be read in under 3 hours and her recommendations put into practice. The conciseness would also make it easier to refer to those portions of the book that I want to get a refresher on.
The best chapter in the book is Chapter 8: Crimes and Misdemeanours because Debra lists out the 8 types of activities that lead to the murder of a meaningful conversation. There were parts of this chapter that made me chuckle and several parts that made me gasp in horror because I could vividly recollect conversational crimes that I was guilty of.
What I did not like about this book?
While I believe that the self-deprecating stories about the authors own struggles were important to share so that I could relate to her and it made me comfortable, there are multiple places where those stories seem forced and are overkill.
Who should read this book?
In one word, everyone!
I believe that this book provides a solid skeleton on how to make meaningful connections with new people, develop meaningful relationships, therefore, this book is recommended to anyone and everyone.