Talk Targets are people with whom it is easy to make conversation. If you compliment someone on their conversational prowess and they look at you aghast, saying, "But I only talk easily and say clever things around you!" -- then you are a Talk Target.

Being a Talk Target who makes other people brilliant conversationalists is an art -- but one that we can all learn. These people offer, motivate, and encourage communication that builds relationships and business. We find them at work, at home, on sports fields, in meetings or classrooms, everywhere we go.

Talk Targets go out of their way to make people feel comfortable. Woody Morcott is CEO of Dana Corporation, a $7.5 billion company with factories in twenty-nine countries. At the cocktail hour before my program for his senior executives, I saw his fun tie and commented on it being so lighthearted and different. "Susan, because I am the CEO of Dana, some people may be uncomfortable approaching me. This tie is so eye-catching and fun that it lets people know it's okay to approach me. It gives them something to talk about, and also gives them a chance to feel good about initiating the conversation."

What do Talk Targets do to make others feel comfortable and encourage conversation? Here is a partial list:

  • Take the first step and initiate. Say hello.
  • Listen to introductions. Good listening requires practice and sometimes silence.
  • Maintain eye contact and smile.
  • Use humor appropriately to lighten conversation.
  • Consider what is said and address it. Let the situation set the agenda.
  • Be well-read and familiar with current events.
  • Have a broad range of topics of interest.
  • Encourage others to contribute.
  • Volley the conversation by answering questions with a comment and a "return question."
  • Learn about the perspectives and background of other parties.
  • Converse with an aura of authority and expertise.
  • Ask the opinions of others.
  • Tell interesting stories.
  • Be open to change and exchange.
  • Be enthusiastic.
  • Use others' names in conversation.
  • Refrain from monopolizing conversation.
  • Use varied tones, inflections, and pacing.
  • Pay attention to what has been said, and respond accordingly.
  • Put people at ease with friendliness.
  • Open up the circle of conversation by physically stepping back and allowing people to join.

We all do these things, but we can be conscious of doing more of them to be on our best behaviors as confident conversationalists --- and inspire others to do the same. That will make us Talk Targets in any group.

This material was excerpted from Chapter 10 of How To Work A Room: The Ultimate Guide to Savvy Socializing in Person and Online, published by Harper-Collins Quill. Susan RoAne, a nationally recognized speaker on topics including networking and conversation strategies, is also the author of The Secrets of Savvy Networking and What Do I Say Next? Susan RoAne and the RoAne Group may be contacted at 415-239-2224 or via