Traffic Cardinal Traffic Cardinal wrote 29.05.2024

The Art of Geisha: How to Improve Your Networking Techniques

Traffic Cardinal Traffic Cardinal wrote 29.05.2024
11 min

Westerners are often slow on the uptake when it comes to Japanese concepts: they sound tricky, lack plasticity, and contain a flurry of unfamiliar notions that cannot even be directly translated from one language into another. That’s why the scuttlebutt turned the intricate image of a geisha into an oversimplified — and undoubtedly transparent — idea focusing on prostitution and other carnal pleasures. In reality, however, Japanese geisha represent a far more complex phenomenon: they can be considered hosts creating an illustrative networking session where all participants feel at ease and enjoy the flow of the confabulation, which may take sudden turns, but never end abruptly on the part of a ill-prepared speaker, because this geisha always knows how to run the show. Is it an inherent quality? Are there Japanese secrets one can use at a conference to initiate a chat?

Stay with us to debunk the humdrum geisha myths and explore the conversational techniques to win over the public.

A Speck of History

Forget about the hackneyed banality entitled Memoirs of a Geisha — it has nothing to do with reality. The writer, Arthur Golden, faced a truculent, for a lack of a better word, attitude, and was later sued for defamation and breach of contract, as he reduced the complicated art of geisha to the strictly intimate aspect of the woman’s life that was never in the cards to begin with. A geisha is a brilliant, pliable conversationalist who can masterfully steer any conversation in a comfortable direction. Some may argue that loquacity — or, even more precisely, eloquence in this case — is an inherent quality one cannot generate at will, so if Mother Nature had a tiff with your parents and refused to bestow the gift of verbosity on you, and you exposed a penchant for affiliate marketing... Well, joke’s on you. Cope with it and count to ten before every networking session you are bound to undergo.

Kitagawa Utamaro, Three Famous Beauties
Kitagawa Utamaro, Three Famous Beauties

But here’s the tidbit: not every geisha is born a talented conversationalist. Some girls who enter the profession are naturally meek: they do not participate in public presentations, get agitated when it's their turn to perform, and grope for words every time they are asked to speak up. However, geisha are eminent for their art of conversation: they are said to be able to sustain any confabulation, regardless of the topic. This alone shoves us to a peculiar conclusion: this quality is nothing more than a skill that can be learned just like dancing, singing, or flower arrangement. For example, every maiko, a student geisha, spends a whole month accomplishing the Minarai (見習い) stage, which can be roughly translated as Learning by Observation. The maiko aren’t allowed to fully participate in conversation with clientele, as they are only developing their skill by observing more practiced colleagues, imbibing their antics, behavioral patterns, demeanor, and ethics. At this point, you will not hear a witty wisecrack or a funny remark from these modestly-looking girls: while in training, maiko only reply with a nod or a smile. We wouldn’t advise you to go that far by jotting down that observation thing: just focus on the people around, pay attention to the booths, and memorize other hooks and tricks other affiliates use to initiate a chat.

Conversational Techniques

The art of conversation in Japan and the art of conversation in America and Europe may differ in inklings and messages people want to convey, but if you need a few well-reputed techniques to overcome your qualms at a conference, examine the shortlist below: we have chosen five essential strategies to spark up a conversation. If you are a savvy, seasoned affiliate who’s had a fair share of conferences, you are also welcome to take a closer look — and let us know if said tips are as profitable as they seem at first glance.


In Japan, it is crucial to demonstrate that you dedicate your undivided attention to the chat you’re participating in: it’s impolite to stand still with a pugnacious face as if you’re about to indulge in browbeating.

The Hikone Screen, displaying one of the first networking sessions in the world
The Hikone Screen, displaying one of the first networking sessions in the world

If you’re high-strung, but the person you’re talking with is trilling amiably, describing the advantages of their affiliate program, don’t stare at them in the most intimidating fashion possible! Employ the Japanese tactics to oil the wheels of conversation instead, exhibiting your unadulterated curiosity: use your most melodious “hmm” when fellow affiliates share their experiences for everyone to hear; confirm their speculations with a “yes” when they enter into explanations; show sheer interest by an “is that so?” when they tell you they are the most popular platform in the entire world.

In short, don’t be apathetic: you’re here to charm partners, so you must strike them as a vigorous person, driven by the idea of new acquaintances.


Are you on the same page with the person you’re talking to? Did they just offer a collaboration? Did they rescind your proposition? Damn, these topics are skittering wildly when you’re surrounded by dozens of speakers and spry representatives. They pile you up under tons of details, and you're no longer sure whether you're still discussing terms and conditions or switching to an altogether different topic, having nothing to do with partnerships, conferences, or business in general.

That’s why it may be necessary to set order and make sure that everyone’s on the same track.

When your companion has finished their bright presentation, it may be a good idea to sum things up by paraphrasing what they've just said. This is one way to acknowledge the information you’ve heard and express your interest. Yes, you listened to them carefully. Yes, this platform is the best in the world. Sure, we should work in tow because these aspects you've just mentioned align with our objectives and values!


Mechanics and automation work well in statistics and analysis, but these tools only repel real people and rebound like a pressure wave. Of course, you can answer with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’, but it would sound unconvincing and in some cases, a trifle unfriendly. The Japanese have expanded courtesies to grammatical patterns, so you can express a ton of attitudes, meanings, and excuses by one string of words attached to each other by the endings, but at a conference, you can simply say add a little compliment: ‘yes, that’s right. You’re most observant!’ or ‘No, unfortunately, I am not familiar with the topic, but I’ll certainly look it up now that you mention it!’

Indirect Questions

In Japanese culture, people don’t like having their shortcomings exposed, so blatant whys can irritate the person you are talking to. And at conferences, you rub shoulders with all types of people, and you never know how they can react to your poking around and straightforward witticisms. To evade any untoward events, resort to the universal remedy called indirect questions, most commonly in use in England: such a minor thing can coalesce even the most stubborn and bellicose affiliates.

If you are wondering what it means, we are eager to provide examples of how to smooth the sudden commotion and not seem overly insolent. Try to know the person better without yielding to outright hobnobbing, for instance:

  • I am sure I have heard something about your company. Could you tell me more about your options?
  • The booth clearly demonstrates that you are working with several verticals at a time. I wonder if you could tell me which is the most prominent one.
  • I love your style! I think I might be able to offer you a partnership. Would you be willing to tell me a bit more about your company?

By the way, if you want to perfect your loquacious prestidigitation, turn a why-question into a statement. Imagine, you’re shocked to see a mess in the booth, T-shirts scattered everywhere and people running agog aimlessly. Don’t ask why they are doing it. Prompt them to reply to your positive approach by saying something like, “That’s a good idea to put your shirts on display like this. They attracted my attention from like a mile away!

The brilliance of this technique is hidden in its simplicity: if the team is not in the mood to converse with you, if they’re busy or waiting for someone else, they will just let it go and move on. It’s just a statement that may or may not help you find a trustworthy partner.

Asking the Obvious

You don’t have to rummage in your mind palace trying to discover that One Unique Topic to impress that smiling lady standing near the booth. Seriously, get rid of your trepidation by asking a very much expected question that would exhibit your sheer curiosity, which is, in turn, an effective way to spark a conversation: by asking something evident, you embolden company representatives to clarify or explain details, allowing them to give as little or as much information as they feel comfortable with.

Wrapping Up

Come to think of it, the art of networking has a lot in common with the art of conversation performed by Japanese geisha: at events that can be quite diverse, affiliates make rounds around the expo making acquaintances, chatting, laughing, and having fun. Some guests, however, may be hiding extreme anxiety behind their cheerful masks, not knowing how to shift from topic to topic and initiate another chat. Hopefully, these Japanese tips will alleviate your stress and improve the quality of your networking. Good riddance!

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