Tips For Making Small Talk

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.

The key to success in “small talk” is having a simple, reliable game plan. Try this 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 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.

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 but I find that it kills my golf game.”

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

209) Was That Networking Event Worthwhile?

Here are questions you likely ponder after most any networking event are: Was it worth the trip? What it worth the time spent mingling? Are the contacts I made worth anything? Was that event worthwhile?

Know this: In reality, the answers to these questions are always a resounding “Absolutely!”

Think about it: Every event offers value. Yes, some events offer more value than others. They all have value, however.

And, yes, the value from some events is more immediate, while the true value of others takes time to develop and fully present itself.

So, certainly assess the value of events as best you can. And certainly, track your results however you deem appropriate.

But before you completely pass judgment on an event, remember this: The benefits of any networking activity may not present themselves for weeks, months, or even years. So be patient. Keep attending those events.


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205) Exit Conversations Gracefully

Making connections at networking events is great. Remember, however, that networking and these events in general, are about building relationships.

So, you want to become adept at having small talk conversations. But in addition, you need to become skillful at transitioning out of conversations so that you’re able to move on to another.

Here are some great ideas on things to say to help you “gracefully exit” from one conversation so you can engage in another:

  • “Thanks for your time. I told myself I would meet three interesting people at this event. I have two more to go.” OR
  • “Thanks for your time. There is someone over there that I need to connect with.” OR
  • “Is there anyone here in particular you would like to meet? I would be glad to introduce you.”

These statements are all useful in helping you transition from one great conversation to the next. So, keep these statements in your conversation arsenal.


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189) Have You Met…?

A linchpin to building a successful network is adding value to others. By adding value, people want to know you and become almost compelled to like and trust you. Once you surrender to this notion that adding value is key to building a network, you need to set about finding ways to do that.

That said, there are many ways in which you can you can add value to others. You can make referrals. You can share information. You can simply encourage or celebrate others.

The most lasting way to add value, however, is by bringing people together from different segments of your life. You see, when you connect two people, you set in motion a networking multiplier, because those new contacts share information, referrals, opportunities, and (YES) more contacts.

So, if you want to add lasting, network-building value to someone, connect them to someone they don’t know.


Like what you’ve read? Prefer to hear it as a podcast or daily flash briefing? Subscribe to the Networking Rx Minute podcast here or wherever you get your podcasts.


Why Is There An Apprehension Towards “Small Talk”?

Why Is There An Apprehension Towards “Small Talk”?

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?

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 Tacks” ASAP. “Who does your printing? Are you happy? I can do better. Give me a chance. Throw me some business. Well, why not?”

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.

From Small Talk To Networking Success

Let’s face it … “small talk” has a bad reputation. It 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” has a big part in successful networking.

Mining Networking Events

Networking events are generally not opportunities for closing business. Thus, you may not likely get clients as a result of them. You may stumble upon a client. Know, however, that is the exception rather than the rule.

As you embark upon networking at events, do not consume yourself with meeting as many people as you can. Remember, meaningfully connecting is about the quality of the connection and not the quantity. You are much further ahead in time to focus on really connecting with a small handful of people rather than simply collecting dozens of business cards.

Remember, networking events are everywhere. Business after-hours are networking events. Tradeshows are networking events. Business parties are networking events … so are social parties, tailgates, and really any gathering of people. Use each to expand your base of connections, from which you build relationships.

Was That Networking Event Worthwhile?

The burning question after most any networking event is “Was that 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. Before you completely pass judgment on an event, however, remember that the benefits of any networking activity may not present themselves for weeks, months, or even years.

Don’t Foul Up The Follow Up

Networking events are wonderful. The conversations can be exhilarating. And the whole experience productive. 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.