The art of conversations

Conversations are essential to almost any situation involving business, leadership, and communication. If you are giving a presentation, keeping it conversational helps you engage with your audience. When providing feedback to a team member, having a conversation versus sending an e-mail or text is the most effective way to ensure message sent equals message received. Closing a deal? There is no better way to build new business relationships than having meaningful conversations. Now, more than ever, as we are more than two and a half years into the pandemic, we need to think of conversations as more than “small talk.” Consider the following tips and tools that are essential to the art of conversations:

Be intentional: Don’t just view conversations as informal or impromptu. Too often, we enter a conversation unfocused and not goal oriented. Instead, every conversation should be an opportunity to build a relationship, learn something new or find similarities between you and another person.

Be open to other points of view: Knowing what you want to accomplish is one thing, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be open to alternative outcomes. The key is to be a good listener in a conversation. Good conversationalists (as well as good leaders) understand that there must be a healthy balance between talking and listening.

Every presentation is an opportunity to make a connection: Too often, when we are asked to make a presentation, we see it in a linear fashion and begin preparing PowerPoint slides and all of the information we want to share with our audience. Instead, if we view a presentation as an opportunity to have a conversation, the payoff is huge.

Know your audience: When talking with someone, get a sense of what his or her agenda is and how he or she views you and the conversation. Be aware of any preconceived fears or needs they have. In short, know who you are having a conversation with and something specific that is important to them.

Know yourself: Work to understand why you are in this conversation and what exactly you want to accomplish. If you are unclear as to the outcome you seek, you are likely to have a conversation that goes nowhere. Don’t go into a meaningful conversation without your own agenda. Sometimes people criticize those who “have an agenda.” That’s a mistake. The greater danger is conversing with someone who has no agenda or who hides their agenda.

Be flexible: Be prepared to scrap your agenda and whatever list you brought into a conversation if the need arises. Sometimes, people will surprise you with what they say or don’t say. Great conversationalists are open to those surprises and are prepared to adapt.

Build some momentum in the conversation: If there are several items on your agenda, attempt to get the easy ones resolved up front. This will build a degree of trust and a sense that success is possible. Find the common ground. This will make it easier when you get to the more difficult or challenging agenda items.

Be firm but be fair in your conversation: State your opinion or belief, but don’t draw a line in the sand unless it is a matter of professional life or death. Most issues or questions in the world of business aren’t life or death and the problem arises when we make them so. Simply put, pick your spots.

Follow up: When a conversation ends, be sure there is an agreement as to next steps. Then, be sure to follow up on what was agreed to by a specific deadline. They key is to keep the conversation going which will in turn keep the relationship going.


Steve Adubato’s Lessons in Leadership with Bob Garrett, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health and Jerry Eitel, CPA, Partner Emeritus, Chief Metaverse Officer, Prager Metis CPAs.

On this edition of “Steve Adubato’s Lessons in Leadership with Co-host Mary Gamba,” Steve and Mary talk with Bob Garrett, CEO, Hackensack Meridian Health, about leading a team through a crisis and the role physicians play as the pandemic continues to evolve. Then, Steve and Mary are joined by Jerry Eitel, CPA, Partner Emeritus, Chief Metaverse Officer, Prager Metis CPAs, regarding how technology is changing how we lead and communicate with those in our orbit.

Steve Adubato, PhD, is the author of five books including, "Lessons in Leadership.” His sixth book, "Lessons in Leadership 2.0: The Tough Stuff," will be released in summer 2023. He is an Emmy® Award-winning anchor with programs airing on Thirteen/WNET (PBS) and NJ PBS. He has also appeared on CNN, NPR and NBC’s Today show. Steve Adubato's "Lessons in Leadership" video podcast with co-host Mary Gamba airs Sundays at 10:00 a.m. on News 12+. For more information visit