Effortless small talk
Whether it’s networking, chatting in the breaks at meetings or approaching a complete stranger at a conference, small talk is something you have to do … and it doesn’t have to be hard.
Firstly, stop worrying about what you are going to say … think of your job as finding out about the people you are with. The more they talk, the more interesting they will think you are!
Use open questions that can’t be answered with a Yes or No as they are more likely to lead to a conversation – those are the ones that start with Who, What, When, Why, How and Where.
Have some standard ones up your sleeve to start with and then LISTEN to the answer so you can respond appropriately. Obvious ones would be:
- “How do you know the speaker/organiser/host?”
- “Where have you travelled from today?”
- “What do you do when not networking/attending these events?”
- “What department/company are you from?”
- “What did you think of the speaker/idea that xxx made?”
It doesn’t have to be all about the event, you can ask them Where they live, Where they have been on holiday, What sports they enjoy playing/watching … if you don’t know anything about the sport then ask them what they enjoy about it!
The trick to making small talk is to be curious and not to worry about telling them about you … the opportunity may well come up but you will have more fun if you concentrate on finding out about others. To make it sound less like an interrogation try to comment on their response. For example:
“How do you know (the organiser/speaker/host)?”
“Oh I used to work with her”
“Oh really, she’s been with this company for at least 15 years, you must have a lot of stories from before I knew her! Where did you work?
“The printers, Jackson and Packman in Welwyn Garden City”
“Oh, I didn’t know she worked in print … what did you both do there?”
Chances are you are going to find out more about both the person you are talking to and your mutual contact … and you are in a conversation!
Some people find small talk hard but by concentrating on others, asking open questions and listening to what’s said to you it will become easier each time you try!