How to Have Winning Dinner Conversations

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In many cultures, sharing a meal is one of the most traditional and important customs. For my family, celebrations such as birthdays and Christmas focus on a meal. We have one group of friends we have been catching up with on the second Saturday of December for over twenty-eight years! We may not see each other throughout the year, but we all have that date firmly fixed in our diaries … year in, year out.


As our children were growing up, our family would attempt to have meals together. Like most families it was often a challenge with long workdays, sport practices and other extra-curricular activities. When we could, it was always a good place to start some conversations and ask questions to find out what was going on for each of us and to keep some sense of connection.

I know it’s not always easy to start conversations with your children. Children can be challenging; usually the older they get the harder it can be to have a two-way conversation. It is worth trying out some open questions. I know from experience they work with children—and teenagers if you persist. When I picked up my children from school, that age-old question, “How was your day?” might elicit a “Good,” or “Not so good”. I found it much better to ask, “What was the highlight of your day?” or “What was the worst thing about today?”


These work equally well with adults. I have overheard my grown children discussing how difficult it can be when attending work dinners to make conversation with strangers or work colleagues. I debate this. I know it can be challenging but you never know what you might learn if you give it a go.

A feature of the April YTM Progressive Dinner will be our annual YTM Award.  This fun competition will see 7 competitors delivering a five-minute pre-prepared pitch to the room around ‘why choose me’.  The relevance of the topic to each and every business professional present should provide for some interesting conversations.


Our competitors are stepping out of their comfort zone, raising their profile and taking the opportunity to speak to a room of business professionals. YTM creates a safe environment and encourages growth, bith personally and professionally.

Let me introduce you to our competitors- they have diverse backgrounds and expereince. As an observer and one of the Judges of the People’s Choice Award, you will have the opportunity to hear very different stories and witness how how we can all learn from their example and in the future improve or to craft your own story, why choose YOU.

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  • Tim Smith- Until recently Tim Smith was a National Development Manager, in the  Foreign Exchange arena.

    His skill was to  helps individuals, businesses and organisations safely and securely send and receive international money transfers across the globe.

    In an industry dominated by cold calling and dirty tricks used against clients he has used an unseen disability to his advantage, and to the advantage of his clients, including numerous charities.

    Tim has Asperger's Syndrome, a social disability that sees approximately 80% of people on the autism spectrum stuck in unemployment compared to the sub 5% enjoyed by neurotypical people.

    In spite of the obstacles before him Tim used the strong sense of right and wrong born out of his condition to set about exposing his industry and began "Robin Hooding" the banks, stealing back the bank profits and giving them back to those that need it most, the bank's clients, although now they had chosen to be his clients.

    To truly serve clients in the best possible way he knew he had to overcome one of the biggest obstacles he had faced his whole career, networking. With a network of zero when returning to the work force he knew it was one thing to offer clients superior pricing, that was the easy part, simply apply some honesty, transparency and fairness. However in order to help businesses and charities not only survive, but thrive and achieve what they thought was impossible he applied his Asperger strengths of laser focus and strategy to learning how to network. Within two years Tim Smith became one of the most well known networkers across Melbourne. The connections he has made has seen the disadvantaged across the globe reap the benefits and some of his clients and connections have gone international.” 

  • Sarah Bruce- Drive Skills 4 Life- Sarah Bruce of Drive Skills 4 Life. Sarah has been a driver trainer for five years and has a unique program that supports families, including learners to all become safer drivers and remove any bad habits that may have formed. Sarah also retrains trauma victims who have suffered car accidents and have become fearful to drive on roads we take for granted everyday. Sarah is the only driver trainer with NDIS accreditation in the entire South East. Sarah has also just expanded her reportoire into facilitating in a classroom setting, supporting school students on the fundamentals of safer driving. Sarah’ journey has been long and various from starting out as a Bank Manager in her early days to being a stay at home Mum, just to name a couple, to now running her own successful business based in Frankston. It is her current story she will share about and the “why” of what and how she came to be in her response to the competition topic: WHY CHOOSE ME .”

  • Natalie Van Wetering, Lifes Not Black and white (Marketing & Communications) - After 20 plus years as a senior executive in education marketing, communications, events and fundraising, in 2018 Natalie founded her business 'Life’s Not Black & White' to share with others her knowledge and experience. She takes a strategic, collaborative approach to help schools to zero-in on what makes their school different, and what really matters to them. This brand insight is applied to a strategic communications and marketing plan resulting in • Stronger school profile • Increased enrolments • Increased fundraising support • And most importantly, greater school pride While education is her specialty, she has found the same approach has translated seamlessly into the context of small business, not-for-profits and professional associations. Over the years she has earned a reputation for being ‘brave’ and thinking outside the box. Most would regard her as a straight-talking, audience-centric communicator with a proven track record of success.

  • Harriet Lammin- JDA Architects - Most people know that architects design buildings and produce drawings. What a lot of people don’t realise is that registered architects such as Harriet Lammin from JDA Architects, have additional skills and qualifications in many other areas.

    Harriet conducts her clients safely through the increasingly complex maze of design and town planning and helps guard them from some of the pitfalls of construction, making it stress-free.  She is deeply invested in the outcome of each building project, collaborating closely with the many people of widely varied skills and experience needed to create understanding, trust and confidence amongst the team. 

    She also delights in creating emotionally satisfying experiences, objects and spaces to enable her clients to experience their physical surroundings with a sense of well-being and joy. For the competition topic of ‘Why Choose Me?’ she is going to share a story of how she helped a particular client when things did start to go wrong....

  • Saulo Bilboa Canny - Canny Electrics (Electrical Contactors)- Canny Electric’s mission is to change the way people view and perceive trades in Australia setting higher standards for others to follow, use and improve.

    We are a team of professionals with passion for what we do, providing not only our prompt and responsive service yet a full customer experience from end to end.

    We provide our technical and creative expertise, combined with well-trained staff, state of the art equipment, and thorough support to ensure outstanding results within domestic, commercial and industrial environments.

    We offer a variety of electrical services; safety checks, power, custom lighting solutions, lighting management systems, data and telecommunication, audio, visual, security, and home automation services.

  • Priscilla Pettengell- Business Writing Done Right - Priscilla is an experienced Business Owner, Writer and Editor who makes it possible for businesses to identify and articulate genuine messages that express the essence of who they are and what they do.

    Priscilla focuses on the human elements at both ends of the interaction so that all parts of the communication are properly aligned for the business, brand and target market.

    Her intellect, insight and creative precision result in clear and honest outcomes that position businesses to produce more quality leads, establish sturdy relationships, and achieve growth through high-value conversion.

    Priscilla’s career began with Moldflow, a Melbourne start-up ahead of its time in using software simulation to optimise manufacturing. She joined Wordware where she became a director, and co-founded their proprietary Minimalist Documentation Methodology.

    During her parenting years, Priscilla continued writing and editing, doing projects that were complex, thought-provoking, and just plain fun. This has led to her new business venture, Business Writing Done Right.

  • Andrew Mellody- Co Ground (Social Enterprise) - Andrew is the Managing Director and Co-Founder or Co-Ground, a Not-For-Profit organisation and global community of change-makers. In Australia, Co-Ground operates a number of certified social enterprises - cafes, specialty coffee cart and catering services, coworking, markets, events and site activations. These social businesses provide opportunities for young people to develop their skills and join a purpose-driven community. 100 per cent of the profits generated in Australia support empowered communities in the Asia Pacific to improve education, health and livelihood outcomes.

The competition will run in two parts with total time allocation 50 minutes…that still offers up 2.5 hours of facilitated conversations to have more conversations than you normally would at a networking breakfast or event.

The incidental conversations and the stories you hear may seem removed from your core business interests, but they can have a big impact. We learn so much from listening and talking to others and what might you learn will increase your chance of your clients choosing you. Seemingly small changes can make a big difference.

Be quick to register for the Dinner HERE as seating is strictly limied and bookings close on the 22nd April for ctering purposes.

Kerryn PowellComment