Great Questions To Ignite “Small Talk”

Again, small talk kick starts the networking process. Small talk, however, is about getting the other person talking. This begs the question: What are good questions to ask in this process?T (Questions)

There is no magic. Planning, however, is paramount. Be like an attorney – prepare your questions before you ask them. In other words, have a small handful of questions ready to go. Each of these relate to the person’s life professionally or personally … Or something about their past.

From there, allow the conversation to take itself wherever. A few of these questions could include…

  • What do you do? How long have you been doing it? How did you become interested in that?
  • What are some of the projects or assignments you are currently working on?
  • Are you from this area?
  • Yes – What part?
  • No – What brought you here?
  • Outside of work, what occupies you? How did you become interested in that?
  • What are some business or community organizations you are involved with?

These will give you a start. From here you might want to formulate your own series of questions. Again, there is no magic. It is simply a matter of planning on how you will get and keep them talking.

Tips For Making Small Talk

Here is an important thing to understand: “Small talk” is not about filling idle time with interesting things to say. Rather, “small talk” is about getting the other person to fill idle time with things to say and you genuinely finding interest in it.

B (Three Fingers)To make this happen (like anything) the key to success in “small talk” is having a reliable game plan. Like most game plans, the simplest are the best and this is a simple, reliable one.

Step One: Ask A Question … Now remember, the key is to get them talking, so you need to be ready with questions that are open-ended. “Isn’t this weather crazy?,” will not cut it. “How does this crazy weather affect you?” just might.

Step Two: Listen … Really Listen … Take an interest in what they have to say, even if the subject is not particularly interesting to you. Why? First, you just might learn something, something that could help you or something that you can use to help them (which ultimately helps you).

Second, and this is very counter-intuitive, if you take an interest in them and whatever they have to say, they will find you to be a very interesting person (and they will not know why). It is just human nature. People tend to like people who show a genuine interest in them. So this listening encourages the entire networking process.

Step Three: Summarize & Share … As a follow-up (to show you are really listening), summarize what you have heard (or at least do the best you can) and then share a little about the subject as it relates to you. “So, as an avid water skier all this hot weather is great. I find that it kills my golf game.”

Then finally (just like the instruction on the shampoo bottle – lather, rinse and repeat) ask another question. Perhaps it is related to the first question, or maybe it is another tangent you would like to explore based on what they said in their answer. For example, “So, if hot weather is good, what do you do to occupy yourself when it is too cold to take to the lake?” Whatever, the case, keep them talking.

Why Is There Apprehension Toward “Small Talk”?

 

R (Conversation)For many, the thought of engaging in “small talk” can make them anxious. It comes down to one thing – FEAR. Fear of being rejected. Fear of having nothing to contribute. Fear of getting stumped (or running out of conversation). Fear of getting stuck in a conversation with, well, that stranger that Mom warned you about.

FEAR NOT! The strangers your mother warned you about are no longer interested. You have things to contribute and with a little planning and practice you will never get stumped (and if you do, there is a way out).

As for rejection, know this: Everyone has this fear. EVERYONE. Even the most well connected, confident person will tell you that, deep down inside, they have this apprehension. If everyone has this fear, then everyone will welcome you coming up and jumping into conversation with them.

So make someone’s day. Engage in some “small talk” with them.

How Does “Small Talk” Create Networking Bonds?

Think about it. What did you do that last time you were at an event and someone started talking “Brass Tack” ASAP. “Who does your printing? Are you happy? I can do better! Give me a chance. Throw me some business? Well, why not?”M (Hand Shake)

It is through “small talk” that people gain an understanding of: Who you are … What interests you … How you spend your time. And you learn the same about them.

As an analogy, “small talk” is like the warm up you do before you really get into the work out. It is the foundation of the KNOWING in “Know, Like & Trust. It is also this small foundation, upon which people gain a sense as to whether they LIKE you. In fact, social science and brain studies have shown that in the few minutes where chitchat is happening, people even start to formulate a sense as to whether or not they TRUST you, too.