Although I touch on the value of good conversation in Book 1: The Foundation, I don’t go into a lot of detail on building your conversational skills. There are no “tricks” to good conversation: listen and when you say something – have something to say.
Having something to say might be a problem for some girls. Successfully conversing with someone several years older than yourself and with much more life experience requires that you feed your mind. If you feed your mind a diet of tabloid magazines and TV reality shows, you’re not going to offer much that will interest or entertain your client.
What should you feed your mind?
Glad you asked.
You need to keep up with current events. Your clients will be wealthy enough that politics interest them because they are affected by policy. Your clients will often contribute to a political party (I mostly ran into Republicans).
There is no need to change your own views, but knowing what’s going on in the world and being able to comment intelligently will go a long way toward impressing your client. Don’t parrot other pundits. Read and absorb the news, then formulate your own opinion. Your views will always be unique to your client because you’re young, female and an escort. That’s very different from the people he normally discusses the news with. You don’t need to turn into a political blowhard, just having an informed opinion is good enough.
Whether you read the news daily or weekly depends on many factors, but you should read the news on a regular basis. Because you’re also a part of this country, knowing what’s going on can become personally important too.
Although the Web is full of great opinion pieces, for straight news, here are some accessible news sources:
US News & World Report
The New York Times
The Washington Post
The Wall Street Journal (online)
Local and Regional Knowledge
You will have two types of clients: locals and travelers. If they’re travelers, they often want insider advice (e.g. you) on where to stay or where to eat. This means you will have to keep current with your city and state.
Although you’ll probably be current on the local restaurants, bars and hotels because of your job, it never hurts to do research. Every large city has its own magazine, usually full of reviews. Smaller cities have newspapers, which are also full of reviews and advertisements of places to try. You can also find plenty of consumer-review sites online. Triple A (AAA) offers great magazines for every state they’re in, if you’re a member.
Even if you have mostly local clients, you still need to keep up with what’s happening in your city. Is there a major layoff on the way? What about the new city council member? Or the city’s re-zoning project? These are things that will affect your client’s business and family, which in turn affects you. Knowing about an election doesn’t mean you can change the outcome, but it does mean you can discuss the matter with your client if you need to.
It’s also important to know the interests of most of your clients. This will require a number of appointments, but you’ll notice trends. What field do most of your clients work in? What’s their most common hobby? Where do most of them like to go for vacation? This is not to say that they want to discuss things they’re always talking about but it’s good for you to know where they’re coming from and what affects their lives.
Being aware of what’s going on the in world is very important. But what if your client doesn’t want to talk about heavy stuff? This is when knowing about things that aren’t news comes in handy.
Reading monthly magazines is a great source of general knowledge and trivia. Reading specialized magazines, like travel magazines, is great too. I recommend one or two subscriptions to a general monthly magazine, then indulge in whatever specialized magazines you want.
Start visiting secondhand bookstores. A great bookstore will let you turn in books for credit, which you can then use to fund your new books. Sometimes $20 in a used-bookstore will get you 20+ books!
Even better is learning a new subject. It could be a practical skill, like Web design. Or something wonderful, like joining a German-wines club. Take classes or attend meetings of local groups. You can find all sorts of casual groups on MeetUp.com. You can find classes through your local community college (ask about their “continuing education” or “adult education” courses) or places like MediaBistro.com or the LearningAnnex.com.
If you’re strapped for cash, museums and nonprofits often offer all sorts of classes, seminars and lectures for free or very cheap. Libraries are also great places for the budget-minded. Just start reading everything you can find on whatever topic you want. Libraries often offer free programs as well.
If there’s a convention you want to attend – volunteer to help out. Ask them what the perks of volunteering are. Although you may not get to attend all the sessions you want, chances are that you’ll be able to listen to most of them.
And, of course, the Web. Every subject you can think is online somewhere, usually with an active discussion forum. However, the Web isn’t always the most reliable source of information. And sometimes things stick better in your head if it’s not on a computer screen. But if you want to learn about an esoteric topic, the Internet might be your best resource.
Expand your mind. Unlike muscles, your brain won’t get sore. Like your muscles, if you don’t use it – you will lose it.
Here’s a sampling of accessible magazines to get you started. Some are more specialized in interest, but all are good for general audiences:
Travel and Leisure
Shared humor with a client is important. Laughter creates happiness in a person and having a memory of laughter will make your client want to come back to you again.
You need to have a few jokes memorized and at the ready. I’ve subscribed to Playboy for years, partly because of their monthly joke page. They’re usually witty, not overly offensive to women and appeal to men. I’ve had great success when I’ve repeated my favorites.
But you won’t always have a chance to work a scripted joke into the conversation. This is when it’s handy to have a phrase you use that always cracks someone up. Everyone has made a funny remark in conversation and remembered it as a no-fail laugh. Don’t be afraid to use it when the situation is right.
And then there’s your own life. Everyone has funny or embarrassing moments that they don’t mind retelling. Have a couple of these stories ready to go.
Although you’ll find plenty of chances to be funny in the normal flow of conversation, having humor at the ready helps keep conversation going and keeps you from being caught flat-footed. It also reminds you to keep the mood light. Few clients want a serious mental workout with their companion.
Why Don’t I Recommend Educational TV Shows?
Throughout this article I’ve recommended reading printed material. Although there are very educational TV shows that you could watch, TV should not be your primary source of mental stimulation. Why? You can always do something else while watching TV. You don’t need to concentrate on it which means it doesn’t really stick in your head.
On the other hand, it’s very difficult to read and have an understanding of the material if you’re not focused on it. When you focus on it, it sinks into your brain. Some people retain the written word better than others, but almost everyone retains the information better than from a TV show.
I also put classes and hands-on learning higher than a TV show. Depending on your learning type, classes and hands-on learning might stay with you better than a book. But a book still outranks a TV show.
Also, books are portable. Read in a waiting room, in a traffic jam, while your water is boiling for tea, in a hot bath. TV is not so portable (iPod screens are too tiny for educational shows to be very valuable).
Impressing Your Clients
What I’ve described here is an easy way to become a well-rounded conversationalist. Having an interest in something beyond your immediate concerns always makes you more appealing to be around. Having knowledge on a variety of topics makes you impressive to clients. Be interesting.
Most of your conversation will be dinner-party conversation – sometimes like a blind date, sometimes a charged political discussion, but rarely like a lecture at the Sorbonne. Never take things personally (unless meant to); keep it light and interesting. Bounce the focus back to him by being able to mentally go wherever he does.
For more tips on conversing, you might enjoy this post by SecondHand Rose.
No matter how well your describe yourself, your clients expect to meet the mental equivalent of Paris Hilton. Blow them away by being able to effortlessly keep up with whatever conversation they want to have. You’ll make a happy, loyal client.
Don’t believe me? Read why good salesmen need the same skills you do.
Originally published 2/27/07, but due to technical issues is dated several months later.