Excerpted from Convince Them in 90 Seconds or Less

Even if the setting is informal, stay focused on getting the information you want.

Try this with a friend. One of you is A, the other is B. A asks B, “Tell me about your job.” B’s task is to get off the subject as quickly as possible. A’s job is to recognize as early as possible when this happens, then to use one of B’s own phrases to stop B and get her back on track.

For example:

A: “Tell me about your job.”

B: “I sell photographic equipment. Ever since I was a kid I used to stare off at distant landscapes and—”

A: “I find landscapes fascinating. What does your job involve?”

Try this for three minutes, then swap roles. Don’t worry about being obvious.

The point of the exercise is to learn to recognize when you or the person you are talking to is wandering too far off-topic. You’ve seen the result when TV interviewers let their guests or, worse, themselves ramble on for no good reason. Interest and impact are diminished, and the connection can be lost.