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3 Ways to Avoid Awkward Pauses in Conversation

I head over to the bunny slope just in time to watch my kids sidestep up a small ski slope, then snowplow downhill… backwards.

In dozens of lessons spanning almost two decades of skiing I’ve never once gone backwards down a mountain… not on purpose, anyway.

Later that evening I ask my daughter why her instructor had them skiing backwards.

“He was going to take us down the big slope, and wanted us not to freak out if we got turned around.”

That instructor is brilliant… and he gets me thinking about your Elevator Pitch.

Because it’s best not to freak out at things you can control.

Eight-year-olds on a ski slope — will end up facing backwards.

Introverts at a networking event — will face awkward pauses in conversation.

My daughter is now more confident on the bunny slopes because she has practiced the worst case scenario.

And awkward pauses in conversation happen when no one knows what to say next.

So here are three phrases that work really well to avoid awkward pauses in conversation.

1. “So, do you come to a lot of these kinds of events?”

This is great to use right after “hi.”

Conversation Starter Example

“Hi, I’m Andy.”

“Andy, I’m John. Nice to meet you.”

“Very nice to meet you John! So, do you come to a lot of these kinds of events?”

“Funny you should ask that! I’m new to the area, and…”

Now, of course, the other person might start the conversation.

Great!

In that case, answer his questions.

Tell a quick non-business story about the topic she introduces.

Go with the flow of the conversation.

Then, when you feel the conversation start to wind down (you know that feeling, right?), say something like

Conversation Starter Example

“This seems like a great event. Do you come to a lot of these kinds of events?”

“Funny you should ask that! I’m the organizer of this event. Is there anyone in particular you want to meet?”

This is a great low pressure question that leads to additional interesting conversations.

2. “How did you get started working as a [pastry baker, family entertainer, artist, …]?”

This one is useful for those conversations where you quickly exchange your title but then aren’t sure what to say next.

Conversation Starter Example

“Hi, I’m Andy.”

“Hi Andy, I’m John. What do you do?”

“I’m an Elevator Pitch Coach. How about you?”

“I’m do star wars Jedi training balloon parties for kids”

*nods*

*smiles*

“How did you get started working with balloons and kids?”

“Well, this goes back a ways…”

Most people will excitedly talk about their path to their current situation.

They’ll drop hints of schools they attended, towns they’ve lived in, and hobbies they enjoy.

Ask follow up questions about anything that you find interesting.

If, on the other hand, they say something short and quick such as “I studied it in school,” then it’s time for:

3. “I’ve really enjoyed talking to you. I’m going to go meet some more people.”

There are only three possible results from a networking conversation.

a.) You set up a sales meeting with a prospect.

b.) You set up a networking meeting with someone you enjoy talking to.

c.) You shake their hand and thank them for a great conversation.

Networking events are about meeting people, so it’s best not to spend too much time with any one person anyway.

Remember that in a room of 40 people, if you start a conversation with 3 or 4 of them that’s a good night of networking.

Which means that there will be plenty of people you don’t connect with.

That’s fine. It’s expected. It’s part of networking.

Be kind and gracious, and move on…

What’s the best way you’ve found to avoid awkward pauses in conversation?

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