I use this analogy all the time. If you know me, you've probably heard this one.
I'm a lover, not a fighter. But, specifically, I'm a dog lover.
If I'm walking somewhere and I see someone walking their dog, more likely than not, I'm going to engage them in conversation with the sole purpose of getting some lovin' from the dog. But I can't just announce I'm going to pet the dog and go pet it. Not only is it rude, but it's unwise as I don't really have enough context to ensure that's a safe activity to pursue.
Instead, I casually approach the person and offer some prompt, such as, "What a beautiful dog!" or "Who's walking who, over here?!?!" (I know, so cheesy.)
Then I ask my question that will spark a conversation leading me closer to my goal. "Is your dog friendly?"
The answer to this question provides the context I need to determine the most relevant action. If they say yes, I will move in for some lovin'. If they say anything other than yes, I'll respectfully stand back. And the conversation may continue or not from there.
That's the typical exchange. It's a simple process of Ask, Capture and Act. We use this approach everywhere. Think about when you bump into a friend at the grocery store. "You look so good. Have you lost weight?" Or when you see someone at work for the first time that day: "Hey there. What did you do last night?"
Every engaging conversation starts with a prompt and a question, leads to capturing an answer for context and then drives a relevant response.
That's what this thing called "Conversational Engagement" is all about. It's mimicking the structure of real human interaction and creating an automated way of doing it with thousands of people, all at once.
Think about how you can apply this to your member acquisition process ("Why did you download that article?" or, "Are you interested in becoming a member?"), or the renewal process ("Are you planning to renew your membership?"), or the conference registration process ("Which topic is top of mind for you right now?"), or even building out your profiles ("Is this your current title?").
It becomes easier to figure out what to ask if you actually picture yourself standing in front of the person you're trying to engage. What would you say to them in real life? Take yourself through that exercise and you'll find your mindset changes dramatically.
"What a beautiful dog. Is she friendly?"