How to Start a Conversation with Anyone

How to Start a Conversation with Anyone

How to Start a Conversation with Anyone

Every career is built on two things: performance and relationships. Maintaining existing relationships is fairly straightforward, but how do you get your foot in the door to develop a new relationship? It’s as simple (or as daunting) as just starting up a conversation. Follow the tips and best practices that we layout below, and you’ll become a networking master.

Introduce yourself

This opening seems like a no-brainer, but it’s very often skipped. The standard “Hi! I’m (your name). Thought I’d introduce myself.” is really all it takes. It takes some bravery to walk up to someone and be the first to talk, but your listener will respect your confidence and open up.

The formula for good conversations

Ask a question + Listen to the answer + Respond in the form of a statement

Well, what question do I ask?

  • Why they work where they work
  • Why they chose the neighborhood where they live
  • What brings them to the event you are both at
  • What they enjoy about their work or a hobby

Keep it open

Open-ended questions work great. Make sure that it’s a question that will lead your listener to a positive place.

Body language

Don’t just listen with your ears. Body language plays a critical role in any conversation. Smile. Look your listener in the eye. Make sure that your physical cues show that you’re engaged. 

It’s about feelings

Your listener won’t remember many of the details of your first conversation. However, they’ll recall precisely how that conversation made them feel. Find out what your listener is passionate about and hone in on that subject. The most important thing is the emotional state of the other person and how well you can relate on an emotional level.

Additional tips

  • Ask for your listener’s opinion. Everyone has plenty of opinions and people love to share them.
  • Ask for their advice or recommendations. Make your listener feel important in any way you can.
  • Connect over a mutual acquaintance. This is a great way to find common ground.
  • Bond over a shared experience. Again, common ground is a good thing.
  • Put your listener on center stage with a thoughtful compliment.
  • Share your story. Everyone has one, and they are always interesting!

The lasting, genuine relationships that will aid you throughout your career are all built on mutual connections. The formula and tips listed above will help you find and make many new connections that will grow and develop for years to come.

What are your favorite conversation starters?


Your PPAI Expo Networking Guide

Your PPAI Expo Networking Guide

The PPAI Expo is an event largely built around the products in our industry. There will be thousands of new products, specials, and closeouts lining the seven miles of booths. With so much to see it’s highly recommended that you go into the show with a plan of what booths you need to hit and which products you need to learn about.

Having a pre-show plan in place will allow for plenty of time to take advantage of the real value provided by the PPAI Expo–networking. Over 12,000 promotional products industry professionals will be managing the booths, walking the floor, and pulling the levers at the slots. No one can connect with everyone, but stick to our PPAI Expo Networking Guide and you’ll optimize your time in Las Vegas.


Outside of the food court, the Starbucks that sits along the walkway to the Expo is the closest place to get a coffee or a bite to eat. It tends to be hectic but will be littered with fellow promotional products industry professionals from 6:00 in the morning to 6:00 in the evening.

Border Grill

The Border Grill is the closest restaurant to the show floor. It’s moderately priced, perfect for a mid-day margarita, and will be slammed by the lunch crowd. It’s a great place to grab a bit with old friends or talk about your latest RFP opportunity with your favorite supplier.

Orchid Lounge

The Orchid Lounge is located on the casino floor of the Mandalay Bay and is the ideal spot to have an after-show cocktail.


eyecandy is in the center of the casino floor and, though a bit loud, is a very popular spot with industry folks. The small club has no cover charge. It’ll usually kick off around 10:00 and stays open until 1:00.

House of Blues

The House of Blues is at the Mandalay Bay end of the long (and expensive) walkway that connects Mandalay with the Luxor. The music and food are great. If you have to entertain a large group or want to treat your sales team, the House of Blues is the place to go.

Shark Reef Aquarium

The entrance to the Shark Reef Aquarium is just to the left of the food court. It’s really the only major attraction close to the show floor. The aquarium is beautiful and can be the perfect, quiet break from the craziness of the show floor. Tickets are $25, but who can put a price on a little relaxation.

Cirque du Soleil

The Las Vegas nightlife presents a great opportunity for industry managers and team leaders to initiate some teambuilding. Seeing a Las Vegas show is the perfect group activity and there’s none better than Cirque du Soleil. It’s a bit pricey with cheap tickets ranging from $40 to $70 depending on the show, but there’s just something about seeing a grown man bend himself into a pretzel that makes your stretch sales goals for the coming year seem much more attainable.

Regardless of where you spend your time at the PPAI Expo you will have a great time. It’s a wonderful show and you’ll be surrounded by all of the great people who make our industry. Have a blast!

Are you exhibiting at the PPAI EXPO or will you be walking the floor and checking out the new products? Read our top tips for success at our industry’s largest trade show!


Networking for Your Next Job

Networking for Your Next Job

Networking for Your Next Job

Effective networking is the most direct method to find your next job. The problem is that most networking is done incorrectly or is considered too intimidating to attempt altogether. Networking is the catch-all term for making new connections, selling yourself to existing contacts, and asking for favors.

If you can’t ask someone for a favor they aren’t really a contact and aren’t in your network. This is one of the main ways in which doing favors for others pays off. One good turn deserves another and in most cases, you can expect favors to be returned at some point in the future. When the time comes for your job search, it’s time to call in as many of those favors as you can.

Perfect Your Pitch

A critical part of effective networking is being clear about your goals. Know your goals and be able to succinctly communicate your message. Be compelling and make people want to know more. Also, be sure not to make it all about you. Your pitch needs to focus on what you plan to accomplish in the next phase of your career and the value you can provide to your next employer.

Track Your Conversations

Keep records of all your networking activity. Who? What? Where? When? What’s the next step? Concentrate on strong follow-up and the next steps you need to take.

Give as Much as You Get

In many cases, you’ll be asking your network for leads, referrals, or job search advice. However, always remember that successful networking is a two-way street. You are utilizing your network to find a new job, but you need to care for it and provide your contacts with value as well.

Sending a thank-you note, asking about the family, or emailing an article you think they might be interested in, are all free ways to add some value for the people in your network. By nurturing these relationships through your job search and beyond, you’ll establish a strong network of people you can count on for ideas, advice, and support.

Don’t Forget About Social Media

Companies and leaders who thrive on social media do so because they give access to their followers. You can get in touch with people on Twitter or Facebook who would never return an email from you. Leverage this fact. Follow people who can help your job search. Listen to them on social media and share things they might find interesting. From there, it’s an easy conversation about opportunities within their organization.

The Secret Advantage of Networking

Many jobs are not published on company websites or job boards. These positions are known to only a handful and HR managers and recruiters. Networking is the only way to get your name in the running for these unpublished positions. Let your contacts know that you are on the job hunt and let your network do the work.



Best Practices for PPAI Expo Success | Attendee Edition

Are you planning to attend the PPAI Expo? Make the most of your time (and survive Las Vegas) by following these simple tips.

Begin your show preparation at least a month before the event. This is when you call your clients to discuss their marketing calendar and promotional products needs. These clients’ needs will become your shopping list for the show!

Set appointments with suppliers to discuss specific client projects. This one-on-one time should be focused, fast-paced, and impactful. Make the most of your time!

Have manners.

  • Don’t block the aisles.
  • Don’t interrupt a supplier or sales rep because you’re in a hurry.
  • Don’t linger in a booth and dominate a supplier’s time.
  • If you’re looking for free stuff to ship home for the kids… really?

No need to visit every vendor, especially if they visit your office regularly. Look for the suppliers you don’t see often.

Ask suppliers about their best-selling products and hottest markets.

Wear comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking between 5-8 miles!

Everyone has a saturation point when you just can’t look at another cap, mug, or pen. When you hit this point, do yourself a favor and call it a day.

At times the nightclub or the craps table may be calling your name. If you can’t say no at least be sure to turn in early.

Follow these time-tested tips and you’ll be able to get the most out of any industry trade show. Happy shopping!

Want to help an exhibitor make the most of their PPAI Expo experience? Send them our post on the topic!


Best Practices for PPAI Expo Success | Exhibitor Edition

The PPAI Expo is upon us! Haven’t started planning for it? Didn’t get the results you wanted last year? Do not panic! Follow these simple tips and you’ll be on the track for PPAI success!

Smile! Social media and email won’t help you here. Your smile is your brand. Practice it and use it often!

Make eye contact! We’ve attended well over 100 product shows and are always “hooked” into a conversation when an exhibitor makes eye contact and smiles! Who can resist a friendly face and a smile?

Act like you really want to be exhibiting. When you or your show staff don’t want to be part of the exhibit team, it shows. Save the time and money and stay home.

Have a purpose! Use show time to build on friendships and business relationships. Know your top 25 clients and know what you want to discuss with them. Make a personal call to your top 25 the week before the show. Set a time and reason to talk. Probe for homework, quotes, and spec sample needs. Your booth should not be a place to sling out catalogs, but a place to wrap up deals.

Don’t sit in the corner of your booth checking email! We’ve all send hundreds of exhibitors who were relieved to see us pass their booth without stopping. The point of the show is to draw prospective clients in, not turn them away.

Spring for the padded carpet in your booth. Your clients will stay to talk longer and your feet will thank you at the end of the day.

Look sharp! Whether you wear a suit, business casual, or jeans and a pressed shirt, dress like you mean business! Impress your clients and take pride in your appearance.

Stock up on breath mints and hand sanitizer. This should be self-explanatory.

Follow-up on your show promises. If you said you would send a sample or spec or special pricing or resolve a problem — do not fail to deliver!

Have a great show and enjoy Las Vegas!

Want to help an attendee make the most of their PPAI Expo experience? Send them our post on the topic!