how to be a great conversationalist

How to Be a Great Conversationalist-Even if You’re Shy

How do great conversationalists do it? How do they know how to connect with people and make them feel good? How do they diffuse difficult situations so well and make everyone feel great?

They get people to like them immediately, they have a cool verbal brand and they’re super confident. They also know how to be influential!

We’ve all been here, right? That time on our first date when we had no idea what to say? Wracking our brains for something interesting to bring up? Feeling like an idiot! Or you started talking, and filler words dominated the scene.

How about at the party where everyone seems to be having so much fun. You’re standing by the hors d’oeurves, wondering how to chat with someone–anyone! 

Great conversationalists know what to say.

Before the meeting starts, you’re trying to think of something more creative to say than, “What’s up with you?” “How’s it going?”

Have no fear! You are here! And I’m going to teach you to be a great conversationalist even if you’re shy or an introvert. 

How to Sound Smart

Great conversationalists treat speech as music.


Because speech is music.

Great conversationalists know that speech is music. And second, speech is power.

Your communications skills cause you to establish strong relationships with folks and have people adore being around you-leading to incredible success.

It’s not your clothes or your hair, and it’s not even your money. You can get people to hang around you if you have a lot of money, but you can’t get them to like you. 

And none of that helps your conversational skills.

How to Make Your Speaking Voice Better

What do great conversationalists know that you don't?

Straight off the bat, they know how to be relaxed and how to convey concise messages. They weren’t born with that information either. They learned it and practiced it. 

Why would they do that? Oh, only because it’s going to help them get ahead in life!

Do you know what else they know? They know how to sound smart, and they know that nobody was born a perfect communicator.

They know that everything they want to do well (tennis, anyone? Playing an instrument, Marketing, IT, Legal studies, etc.) has to be learned and practiced repeatedly.

They’ve studied and put to practice the art of being persuasive and thtye know how to answer difficult questions when they get hit with them.

Most have trained with a coach.

How to be influential e-book

9 Secret Steps to Influencing Others

Want to be more influential? We all want to communicate our most important messages in a way that encourages others to take action. Whether that action is voting for our candidate or picking up milk from the store, the words we use and how we speak play a huge role in getting the job done.

We live in an ultra-competitive environment.

But it’s something very few actually talk about. I’ve been training people to be incredible conversationalists (and to be persuasive, sound smart, articulate their thoughts into words, be concise, improve the sound of their speaking voice, the whole 9 yards) for twenty-five years. 

Some folks brag about me and tell everyone. Thank you, guys! But most people tell me they’re going to keep it to themselves as a secret weapon. Hey, we live in an ultra-competitive society, and they want that edge.

Maybe you’re as good as that other Marketer, but they crushed that job interview just by talking, so they got the job.

Maybe you’re even a better lawyer than your competition, but they spoke clearly and persuasively so they got the job.

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Isn't the better communicator going to increase the bottom line for your firm?

Of course, you want to hire the smooth-talking lawyer and the well-spoken marketer. Sure you’re going to hire the candidate who is well able to articulate her thoughts into words.

There is no mystery here. Communication is a huge part of what we do for work and in our personal lives. It’s at the top of every job description!

What you may think of as soft skills are really the basis for everything you do!

Yes, great conversationalists who have honed their communication skills are trying to leave you in the dust. 

But you’re here now and I’ve got you. Let’s do this!

Use these 7 techniques to be an incredible conversationalist.

You want to be a better talker? Here are the steps in a nutshell, and below, you’ll learn the details. 

  1. Tell stories containing human emotion.  
  2. Be completely relaxed.  
  3. Love your audience to extinguish shyness or introversion.  
  4. Compliment, don’t comment.  
  5. Use influential intonation.  
  6. Listen, rephrase & repeat. Show empathy.  
  7. Be kind and be brief. 

Read on to learn all the details to be an incredible conversationalist.

The best thing to do is to start with The Voice Spa. It’ll teach you to be completely relaxed during all high-stakes situations you find yourself in. Interviewed by Bloomberg? Cool as a cuke!

Then it’ll teach you to be concise! These 2 things alone are priceless. But the course also teaches you to be persuasive. It’s a no-brainer. Of course, you’ll have to practice the skills you learn.

How to Speak Clearly in 7 Easy Steps

The best thing you can do is to get people talking.

And I don’t mean by asking them questions. Nobody wants to be in the hot seat except the few that will talk your ear off anyway.

All over the internet is the bad advice to start conversations by asking questions. 

How to Improve Your Communication Skills at Work

They recommend insane questions that invoke unreal scenarios. Ugh! No! You want to tell a very short story that people can relate to.

Want to be a better talker?

Tell short stories that contain human emotion. I recommend arming yourself with an arsenal of anecdotes. Put some time in and think about your life experiences that have a moral or some human interest. 

If you want help arming yourself with an arsenal of anecdotes take a session with me. I’ll extract a couple of good stories out of you, teach you to use the right words, and you’ll walk away with the strategy and the swagger.

Then practice those stories until you’re confident and they feel good. Make sure they’re not longer than about thirty seconds. Shorter is better.

Resist the desire to give a lot of detail. The best stories draw broad strokes so your listener can draw their own picture in their mind. That’s how people feel connected to you. 

You can also apply this to your elevator pitch.

accent reduction

An Introduction to Accent Reduction

This brief introduction will get you started on the road to speaking Standard American English.

How can telling stories get people talking?

Good question, glad you asked! Yes, it does! If your story contains human elements, folks will jump at the chance to tell their own story, the one yours reminded them of. 

You know the feeling; you’ve done it before. When a friend told you a story you related to, you rushed to tell a similar tale. You can utilize this to your advantage.

Like when you picked your friend up at the airport and she told you how horrifically bumpy her flight was and you followed with a frightening flying story of your own.

People champ at the bit to tell stories that are similar to the stories they hear at that moment.

How to stop talking so fast and other bad habits.

My client, Tom, was the CEO of the European arm of an international firm. He came to me frustrated that he wasn’t creating great relationships at conventions. With some further analysis, I learned he was asking questions to start conversations. That usually leads to a brick wall.

So I taught him the techniques, and with some practice and self-assessment, we got him telling short but exciting tales.

Not only did he create strong relationships, but he ended up being sought-after, as many of my clients do.

how to be a great conversationalist
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Be completely relaxed

Social events usually cause quite a bit of tension in our bodies, from the excitement, the anticipation, and the anxiety over the fear of feeling and looking foolish. We all have it. 

Please note that almost everyone at the event feels similarly to you, and most people are too concerned about themselves to be overly observant about what you are doing. So chances are you won’t look foolish no matter what you do. 

You’ll want to keep yourself calm, cool, and collected. If someone upsets you, that means you need to FindYourRelaxedPlace. I can teach you how. Do your Convey Relaxation Exercises until you get to a point where you can rid your body of tension at any given moment.

How to be yourself

What if I'm shy or an introvert?

If you want to have extraordinary networking opportunities, establish fun, productive relationships, and enjoy beautiful conversations with others, you’ll want to do like the extraordinary conversationalists do: Look outward, not inward.

Instead of thinking about how you feel inside, think about how the other person feels inside. It’s quite refreshing. Not at all exhausting. 

This shift will take a bit of time and practice, but it’s worth it.

When you spend your time wondering if people like you or think you’re smart, you can feel drained. And you just want to go home and go to bed.

But when you love your audience, have warmth for the people you’re with, that’s when you feel like you could chat with them all day.

You can mention how you feel at a party where you know no one: 

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“These functions make me feel awkward; I never know what to say to people I don’t know!” The person standing next to you is going to completely relax and say, “Me too!”

Better yet, have anecdotes prepared.

How to Sound More Confident

Speak slowly by using breath groups

Once you are completely relaxed, there will be times during conversations when you want to share your opinion, make a witty observation, or relay a brief anecdote.

A “breath group” is a unit of meaning you can reasonably produce in one breath.

Most people think they should slow down every word. That just sounds robotic. Leave pauses between breath groups. (A breath group can be anywhere from about 4 to 7 words.) 

Connect your breath groups (linking, don’t drop the ball) but utter them slowly. The same story told twice, once slowly, once quickly, will have two different impacts on the audience. The one told quickly will be confusing and tedious. The one told slowly will leave your audience at the edge of their seats, hanging on your every last word. 

How to not be nervous before a presentation.

Compliment, don't comment.

You’ll be the desired companion indeed if you give the occasional compliment. C’mon, there has to be something you admire about that person, or you wouldn’t want to connect with them. You can mention a characteristic, “I love your organizational skills!” or just an article of clothing. 

A comment looks more like, “You got your hair cut.” or, “You changed your office around.” Not sure how those are helpful conversational tools.

Here’s how to compliment, don’t comment.

Use influential intonation to be an awesome conversationalist.

Here comes that music bit we talked about earlier. Just like a good song, good conversations have rhythm. So give yourself a few beats before you respond, and make sure you vary the length of your notes just like beautiful music does.

Here’s how:

  1. Vary the volume of the vowels in your sentence.
  2. Emphasize the vowels of the words with a great deal of meaningful content.
  3. Significantly reduce the length and volume of all other vowels. There should be approximately a 1 to 7 ratio of “big to small.”

How to improve the sound of your voice.

Really listen to your conversational partner,

A compelling conversationalist will spend most of his or her time listening. People want to be heard. They want to spend time with people who understand them. So listen to people when they speak. Try to understand them. React during appropriate times by letting them know that you hear them.

“I understand what you mean.” “I know the feeling.” “I gotcha.”

It makes people feel good to know that they are understood. Try not to fall into the trap of preparing what you’re going to say next while others speak. You will have the opportunity to talk, and when you do, you will have a firm grasp on your communicative partners’ feelings, preferences, wit, etc., and you will be well-equipped to speak.

If you can master the art of telling quick stories that inspire people to talk and really listening to folks as they do, the more you’ll make people feel warm and fuzzy. So it shouldn’t lead to exhaustion for the introverted.  

communication skills training
Click to Learn More about The Voice Spa online course


Be kind.

Use kindness and warmth in your voice. Use warm eye-contact. Even on virtual meetings, make sure you’re looking at the person on the screen.

Don’t use negative phrasing that can lead to miscommunications. For example, don’t ask someone what they didn’t understand about what you said; ask them what you can explain better.

By all means, don’t use the expression, “as I said before.” It’s so insulting!

Also, make sure you’re not working so hard to make people like you and respect you that you become bull-doggish in reporting your narrative.

How to be a persuasive speaker.

Be brief.

Keep your stories/anecdotes short and sweet. Concise and to the point. Good story-tellers practice their tales. They do so during their free time aloud using the recorder. Then they tell the same stories during real-time situations.

An excellent conversationalist’s goal is to get other people talking.

What about questions?

I don’t recommend starting conversations with questions. I advise beginning conversations with concise stories. The following advice applies to exchanges already in progress. 🙂

If someone’s telling you a tale of woe or excitement, really listen and ask questions. When someone’s telling you a story, you may wonder about more details; be sure and ask for them. It goes a long way to make people feel good.


When conversations become boring or trite, segue into something more profound. Simple discussions regarding the weather and everyday activities can end at a brick wall. You can prevent that by considering your emotions as a result of a topic. 

The best communicators understand that humans have feelings that are similar to their own. Know how you feel about something, and you’ll have insight as to how others might feel. Remember that opinions are different from emotions.

Suppose you tell a short story about something mildly embarrassing or scary that happened to you. In that case, your communicative partner will be able to relate to you and will reply, excitedly, with a similar tale of their own.

How to Answer Difficult Questions Like a Genius

accent reduction

An Introduction to Accent Reduction

This brief introduction will get you started on the road to speaking Standard American English.

Great conversationalists pull together physiology & emotions.

Good emotions. Not negative ones. They know they need to be warm, kind, and engaging. That’s where the emotions lie. 

Also, remember the physical aspects: that the more breath groups you use, the better your intonation usage, and the more you listen, the more powerful you are, the better conversationalist you’ll be. 


Anything you’re good at, you’ve worked on.

If you’re good at tennis or golf you worked on it and you continue to make improvements in your game. If you play an instrument you never stop practicing and honing your craft.

Improving your conversational artfulness isn’t any different. Since your success is riding on it, it should be even more critical.

Sound amazing in a brave new world.

14 thoughts on “How to Be a Great Conversationalist-Even if You’re Shy”

  1. I’m not sure if I’m shy or am introvert, I must be one of them, but I’m definitely going to try my arsenal of anecdotes!. I never know what to say in the spot, so being prepared is a good idea. Will I have to always practice in advance?

    1. Hey Jin, thanks for your comment and question! No, you won’t always have to practice in advance. YOu’ll want to organize your life in terms of stakes. Low stakes situation (ordering food & beverages or greetings for example) to high stakes situations like being on television or having a job interview. Then you apply these conversational skills tips in that hierarchy, measuring your success all the way through. Of course, in our lives, we have to hire other people to help us accomplish things not in our wheelhouse. I’d recommend you take some sessions with me or take one of our online video sessions.

  2. My stories are always so long! And I never seem to get to the point. Uma try this! I hate recording myself though. I hate hearing my voice on the recorder!

    1. Kris, I hear this all the time! You are part of a large crowd of people who have a difficult time creating stories in their heads. Just know that you have to work on story-telling just like you work on everything else you’re good at in life! But the benefits far outweigh the dilligence.

  3. Very insightful advice. I appreciate this. All over the interweb people are advising the use of questions to start conversations. This just makes more sense! Almost no one wants to be in the hotseat! And I can think back to my recent stories I’ve shared and every time It conjured up something in my friends’ minds that they felt the need to share. Love this, Ita! I’m your newest fan!

    1. Thank you so much, Michael! I really appreciate that!

      I see that, too; all over the interwebs folks are telling people to ask bizarre questions and other generally bad advice. I have to say, it’s what sometimes lights the fire under me to start writing! I get so mad at all the bad advice. I don’t feel like I’m a writer and I’ve needed to increase my comfort level over the past couple of years, but just send me an article with terrible advice and I will write like crazy!

  4. For me, if I hear people talking about a topic I’m really interested in I would love to join the conversation, but I have to wait for someone to invite me since I’m not sure they would want to talk to me and I would feel like I’m intruding or something (and I’m not good at talking to people I’m not close to)

  5. Siobhan Stewart

    It’s funny, as I was reading these, your tips made me think of the charming, good conversationalists I know. People flock to them, and it often feels like this intangible “presence,” but you’ve shown that there are actually some straightforward steps that you can take to create presence and charm.

    I agree that stories are a great conversation starter, and I like the idea of having a prepped arsenal of anecdotes, so that you aren’t trying to think on the spot.

  6. Ahhhhh… Listening is my challenge when I go for job interviews! I try but inside my brain there’s chaos going on. Even when the interview hasn’t started and they are making small talk with me, I just struggle with listening.

  7. I am very shy. I always lose my voice in social situations, which is kind of embarrassing and further lowers my confidence. I am following your tips and to my surprise, these tips are really working for me. I am finding my voice more often. I am optimistic that it will improve further.

  8. Great article on Communication and becoming an effective conversationalist. Tips about complementing rather than commenting and really listening to your conversation partner are important. Moreover, tips about avoid turning conversation into boring communication rather than turning into casual talk about weather are also note worthy.

  9. “Using your communications skills, you can establish strong relationships with folks, have people adore being around you-leading to incredible success”. I very much agree to this point, and because of that I love to communicate with people, like to get information about new things.
    But sometimes I lack in communicating with people maybe sometimes because of shyness . I hope this tips will be helpful 🙂

  10. Im so introverted its not funny , I hate talking on a whole. So I tend to have one ear in the convo and the other in some wonderland. Everything stops when its my turn to speak so I always find away to get the other person to continue speaking . I guess I need to brsuh up on some stories

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