Whether you are meeting with prospects or attending an industry networking event, you need to be able to carry on a conversation — preferably an engaging, interesting one that creates a favorable impression. Vanessa Van Edwards, for Science of People, shares an impressive list of 10 steps for a “perfect” conversation. She details each step, emphasizing the importance of creating a plan prior to the event to prepare yourself for conversations.

The first step Edwards suggests is examine your intention. “One of the biggest conversational mistakes is going into your events, dates, meetings and parties directionless,” she explains. “A conversation without a game plan is like driving without a map.” Think about what your intention is for the event: To win new business, make new contacts, uncover new ideas? Once you’ve figured out what you’d like to walk away from conversations with, it’s time to do some research. Edwards suggests starting with the basic who, what, when, where, and why questions:

  • Who: Who is hosting the event?
  • What: What kinds of people are going?
  • When: When is it and what’s the schedule?
  • Why: Why are you going?

These questions will help you uncover the basic info you need to create a strategy to reach your goal(s). “ Purpose provides confidence, boosts influence and is contagious,” Edwards writes. “As humans, we like someone with direction.”

Step #2 involves your “approach.” First impressions are made within the first seven seconds of seeing someone–even before you open your mouth to speak! So to make a great impression, it’s important to approach others with confident, open body language. Edwards suggests rolling your shoulders back, ensuring your hands are visible and smiling upon eye contact.

The remaining eight steps cover everything from what to say when you first approach someone to “bookmarking” during conversations to create a deeper connection! Once, you’ve read the entire list, Edwards suggests you practice, practice, practice to hone your new skills!