Remember when “small talk” actually meant something? How has that changed and does it matter? Clearly one way that it’s changed is the result of reliance on technology; if you can e-mail, text, or twitter why bother having small talk, some may think. As far as does it matter, my answer is a resounding YES! Make no mistake…small talk is a vitally important communication skill that should be cultivated because it leads to BIG results.
Recently I was conducting a networking exercise with a group of business professionals who meet on a regular basis. One key aspect of the exercise was posing questions to a designated individual (people took turns being the one to respond to a question). Guess what happened? In many instances, the group couldn’t come up with a single question to ask! What this says is that it’s not uncommon to need improvement in developing skills in small talk. In fact, it’s critical for success in business because if you can’t establish rapport you typically can’t go too far.
So the next time you feel stuck in starting a conversation…try this:
1. Introduce and present yourself in an open, welcoming manner; become aware of your posture and your smile.
2. Focus on the positive; avoid complaining about anyone or anything.
3. Strive to build rapport by showing interest in the other person; make eye contact.
4. Ask questions that allow others to tell about themselves or share their thoughts (e.g. What motivates you? How did you get your start?).
5. Extend conversations by simply saying “How interesting; please tell me more about that.”
6. Listen intently vs. planning out your response.
7. Willingly share information about yourself when asked, as long as you don’t delve into personal stories or dominate the conversation.
8. Use vocabulary that’s natural for you without trying to impress; avoid jargon.
9. Refer to the other person using his or her name; it’s a sign of respect.
10. Politely exit the conversation without feeling guilty; know when to go.
Follow my top 10 tips for small talk; be prepared for big results!