How to lead an engaging conversation and build rapport

We all love to chat. And yet being the lead in the conversation is not what makes it engaging. Having the passion to get to know someone and build a relationship is a great skill in leadership, and underlying all that natural enthusiasm is the ability to lead a conversation and discover the other person’s perspective.

This post will show you how to do this in practice and actively lead an engaging conversation.

How to lead an engaging conversation
How to lead an engaging conversation

We often fail to realise the benefits of taking the time, even for a few minutes, to strengthen our bridge to other people.

The Gallup Report State of The American Manager’ concluded that just 30% of American workers are engaged at work. The findings clearly showed that rapport is a major factor in employee engagement.

So how do you build rapport? What are the steps you can take to instil one of the strongest motivators in the workplace – relatedness?

Breaking the ice

This is about making an effort to open up the general conversation and try to discover common interests. The subject matter can cover a range of topics and start with just a question or a statement. Consider for a moment someone you work with on a daily basis, that one person you have wonderful rapport with, what are the qualities that make it work?

Get into the flow of small talk.

Not everyone will be into the idea, but as long as the focus remains on something the other person is interested in then the conversation can move ahead in leaps and bounds.

You are after the common ground, so look at these nine key areas to begin the search.

  1. Life history – where did you go to school?
  2. Family – what your dad did for work?
  3. Sports – your favourite team?
  4. Entertainment – best book you’ve read?
  5. Geek – what’s your geek factor – the latest smartphone?
  6. Professional – the best job you ever had?
  7. Quirky side – I hate octopus and jellyfish!
  8. Food – are you a good cook?
  9. Life goals – to sail around the Bahamas?

Active listening

This is where the rubber meets the road. This is the single most important action to ensure that the in-sync communication of body language, eye contact and natural reflection create the desired impact.

With active listening your ability to tune-in with each other and gain understanding while displaying empathy creates a strong foundation of trust.

Where you truly listen to each other, common ground becomes an engaged tone and open body language.

Mirroring open body language can help maintain the momentum, and then all it takes is for you to remember the last conversation and what was important to the other person, then suddenly you’re back in the flow. Interestingly enough, when you meet someone you really like you do all of this without thinking.


Engaging conversation seems like it should just flow, but sometimes it needs a little encouragement. Using the tips above, try to build rapport and create genuine connections with people, and you can be sure to see the rewards in performance!

Learn more about relationships building and effective communication in our Emotional Intelligence and Influencing Skills training courses.

From Storyboard to Successful Presentations

How to Structure Your Presentations Efficiently

Once you have decided on the purpose of your presentation and identified your audience, you need to prepare the structure and content in order to go from storyboard to creating a successful talk. Structuring can take time. You can get it done efficiently so you can maximise practice time by doing the following:

  1. Gather the necessary information
  2. Select the material to be included
  3. Create a general outline
  4. Start to write
Create an Outline

For simplicity when creating the outline, experienced presenters often group the content contained in the body into three main sections: these tend to be clearly defined topics that unite for a compelling purpose and narrative.

Spider Maps

Most importantly, you can use a spider map to make this process easier and more productive. When creating a spider map, write your objective in the centre of a blank sheet of paper.

Next, draw lines to connect the centre of your spider map to the outer “bubbles”, which should represent the key topics, themes or issues that you wish to cover. Then, draw more lines outwards to further bubbles which represent the sub-topics, examples and details.

Use this structure to map and spatially represent all of the content that you will cover in your presentation.

For example, if you were to present your company’s services to a prospective client this would sit in the centre, the three bubbles in the first layer around the centre might be:
  1. Analysis of the prospect’s competitive landscape and business problems
  2. Solutions your service will deliver
  3. Deployment and implementation of your service 
Section Sequencing

Once you have your ideas fully mapped out, you can then decide on the sequence of the topics and sections to create your storyboard. For more complex presentations, it’s vital you review and reorganise the linkages between different sections and sub-sections as they emerge on the spider map. This will help you develop a clear narrative.

Next, recognise the common themes you see. These may indicate your potential key messages! Therefore, when it comes to delivering your presentation, these key messages will help you to hammer home points, so they resonate with your audience.


Then, and only then, you can transfer everything into a presentation deck (on PowerPoint or Keynote) to visualise content.

Why wait until now? Because deciding on sequencing before you design in the application will ensure you don’t waste time reordering and redesigning slides in the application (I’ve been there, I know!).


Preparing and structuring your presentation is a critical part of a successful presentation. When you have strong, well-organised content it gives you the confidence to produce powerful performances. Now get that preparation done efficiently using spider maps!

To get practical feedback on your presentations, both in the content planning and the delivery, take a look at our Presentation Skills Training.