Why Is There Apprehension Towards Small Talk?

Apprehension Towards Small Talk

When it comes to building solid networking relationships, small talk is a powerful tool. Small talk opens the door to knowing, liking, and trusting another person. So, why is there apprehension towards small talk?

For many, the thought of engaging in small talk makes them anxious. This anxiety comes from one thing – FEAR. Fear of …

  • being rejected.
  • having nothing to contribute.
  • getting stumped (or running out of conversation).
  • getting stuck in a conversation with, well, that stranger that Mom warned you about.

FEAR NOT because the strangers your mother warned you about are no longer interested. You have plenty of things to contribute to a conversation 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 a conversation with them.

So, make someone’s day and take away their fear. Engage in some small talk.

How Does Small Talk Create Networking Bonds?

How Does Small Talk Create Networking Bonds?

Before you write off small talk as a waste of time, think about this question. How does small talk create networking bonds?

Think about it. How did you feel the last time you were at an event and someone started talking “brass tacks” right off the bat? “Who does your printing? Are you happy? I can do better. Give me a chance. Throw me some business. Well, why not?” If you’re like me, you were probably planning your exit strategy; some way to move on from this pushy salesperson.

Successful networking is built on small talk. 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 workout. And it is the foundation of the KNOW in Know, Like & Trust.

It is also the 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.

So the next time you’re at an event, invest some quality time in small talk and start to create those networking bonds.

From Small Talk To Networking Success

From Small Talk To Networking Success

Let’s face it … small talk has a bad reputation. But what many do not realize is how to move from small talk to networking success. The bad reputation probably dates back to the continual chiding our mothers did relative to talking with strangers.

While her warnings were intended to protect us as children from those who would prey on our innocence, we are no longer kids. We are big boys and girls. We operate in the grown-up world where strangers become good friends, great clients, and even reliable vendors.

Even still, however, small talk gets a bad rap. Far too often people see it as idle chitchat that has no productive value in the professional world.

Understand this. Our entire personal and professional worlds are formed and held firmly together by networking. And small talk plays a big part in successful networking.

Mining Networking Events

Mining Networking Events

Networking events are generally not opportunities for closing business. While you may stumble upon a new client at an event, it’s likely that few if any clients will result from them. Rather than handing out business cards and hoping for success, try mining networking events instead.

What’s the secret to mining an event? Think about how a miner approaches his task. He doesn’t tap-tap here, then tap-tap there, hoping to find some gold. He selects a location where he suspects he’ll find what he’s after, then works that location for a while. As you embark upon networking at events, act like a miner. Do not consume yourself with meeting as many people as you can, collecting and distributing dozens of business cards (tap-tap, tap-tap). Instead, focus on really connecting with a small handful of people. Remember, meaningfully connecting is about the quality of the connection and not the quantity.

Also, remember that networking events are everywhere. Business after-hours are networking events. Tradeshows are networking events. Business parties are networking events. And so are social parties, tailgates, and really any gathering of people. Use each to expand your base of connections, from which you build relationships. Follow this strategy and you’ll be mining networking events in no time!

Was That Networking Event Worthwhile?

Was That Networking Event Worthwhile?

Have you ever left an event and asked yourself, “Was that networking event worthwhile?” In reality, the answer is “Absolutely!”. After all, every event offers value. Some offer more immediate value than others. They all have value, however.

Track your results however you deem appropriate. But before you completely pass judgment on an event, remember that the benefits of any networking activity may not present themselves for weeks, months, or even years. So keep track of who you met, follow through on any promises you made, and patiently wait to see what comes from your attendance at this event.

Don’t Foul Up The Follow-Up

Don't Foul Up the Follow Up

Networking events are wonderful. The conversations can be exhilarating. And the whole experience productive. With all the effort you put into the event, don’t foul up the follow-up!

Follow-up or follow-through regarding whatever you promised to. If you pledged to reconnect, do so. If you offered to introduce them, make it happen. If you indicated you would send them something, get it sent.

Know this, so few people follow through on what they say they are going to do. That is a sad, but true fact. Given that, if you are committed to doing so, you immediately elevate yourself ahead of a significant portion of the networking population. Remember, you can build a great network as long as you don’t foul up the follow-up.

I’m In A Conversation. Now What?

I'm in a conversation. Now what?

You’re at a networking event and you think, “OK. So, I’m in a conversation. Now what? Should I keep talking to this person or move on to someone new? How many people should I be meeting today?”

As wonderful as chatting with a connection at a networking event is, do not burn out the conversation. This is not to say that you need to use the event to pass out handfuls of your business cards and collect handfuls in return. That is not productive either.

It just says that you should attempt to connect enough with the person so that you are both comfortable continuing the conversation another time. Perhaps that is at the next event. Perhaps that is over coffee the next week. Whatever the case, talk for 15-20 minutes, get their contact information and pledge to get back to them.

This will allow you the opportunity to meet and connect with other people. To this end, when you find a lull in the conversation, simply suggest to them:

“I would love to keep talking, but …

  • “I don’t want to occupy your whole time …”
    • “There are a couple people I need to connect with before the event is over;” or,
    • “I promised myself that I would meet three new, great contacts today … you make one and now I need to find two others.”

“If you do not mind, however, I would like to reach out to you later this week (early next week) and arrange a time where we can continue this conversation.”

The Golden Rule of Networking In Action

The Golden Rule of Networking In Action

No doubt, when interacting with others at networking events you are hopeful of getting things … clients, important contacts, and useful information. Understand this: The people you interact with are hoping to get these things, too. You can make an indelible impression on them by finding some way of helping them – even if only in a small way. So, as they talk, run whatever they are saying through a filter that queries: “How can I add value to this person?” This is the Golden Rule of Networking in action – Give first and get second.

There is nothing that says that you have to help them right there and then. If you can help them in that moment, great. If not, do not despair.

Just understand that you make the most of building that connection by trying to find some way you can add value to them later. It might be a referral. It might be a contact. It might be useful information for them. Whatever it may be, keep the Golden Rule of Networking in action – Give First, Get Second!

Networking Conversation

Networking Conversation

At a networking event, after initial contact and the exchange of names, a networking conversation will likely ensue. Engage In It.

Keep in mind that you are there to make new contacts and connections, and not to sell your wares. Do not start the conversation directly focused on business or professional aspects. That can be off-putting and serve to create an uncomfortable situation. Rather, engage in some small talk. Inquire as to the origin of their name. Ask them about their impressions of the event itself. Get them talking about anything other than business. This will serve to make the connection comfortable.

After a few or even several minutes of small talk, segue over to more professional topics. Ask about their business. How long have they done it? What did they do before? How did they get started?

Once the professional discussion has run its course, segue back to small talk. You can reflect on something professional they said and tie it back to something within small talk.

As you engage in conversation, be sure to listen to what they have to say. Focus on them, and not your watch, or who is coming through the door, or anything going on around you.

You should express a genuine interest in what they have to say, especially if it is a topic that you set in motion with one of your questions. To do this, face up to them, make eye contact, and:

  • Make sounds and comments to indicate understanding (or simply nod your head) … “Oh, interesting.”
  • Ask questions to clarify things … “Now, when you say [blank], what do you mean?
  • Echo back what they have said in summary fashion … “So, you basically got into business because …”

As they talk look for things you have in common, whether they are shared backgrounds, similar experiences, or other ways to relate to them. You can use these to interject or ask questions as a means of keeping the conversation going.

Keep these suggestions in mind during your next networking conversation. If you follow this advice, the person you are speaking with will likely find you fascinating, despite the fact that they did most of the talking!

Beyond Initiating Contact

Beyond Initiating Contact

Once you are beyond initiating contact at a networking event (making eye contact, smiling, and saying hello) one of two things will happen:

  1. Nothing will happen; the person will just move along. So what? Don’t take it personally. There are many reasons why they did not stop and none of them are related to you.
  2. They stop and are open to expanding the initial contact into a more meaningful connection.

When this happens, ensure to do these three things:

  1. Offer Your Hand: Offer your hand in anticipation of a handshake, the true first impression. The handshake should be firm, intersecting your thumb web with theirs. Not too firm; a bone crusher might serve to imply dominance. And not too soft; a “limp fish” may be interpreted as disinterest. Remember, it is better to not be remembered for your handshake than to be remembered for a bad one.
  2. Offer Your Name: As you shake hands, offer your name and be sure to enunciate your first name clearly. There are two reasons why this is important. First, unless it is someone you know well, offering your name serves to eliminate any potential embarrassment if the person doesn’t recall your name from an earlier encounter. Second, when you offer your name, they are likely to offer theirs in return.
  3. Clarify Their Name: If the person does not reciprocate when you offer your name, ask, “What is your name?” Regardless of how you came to know the person’s name, clarify it aloud, saying something like, “It’s great to meet you. Susan, right?” or “Hi, Susan. Do you go by Sue or Susan?”

So, as you move beyond initiating contact, these steps will help you better remember their name. In addition, it will subtly imply that their name is important to you, which it is.