352) Transitioning On

Transitioning On

Attending networking events is important. So is knowing what to do once you get there. Like, being adept at entering a conversation, making small talk, and then, eventually, moving on.

It’s true. While it’s important to be good at carrying a conversation, it’s equally important to learn how to wrap one up and transition to someone new.

After all, it wouldn’t make sense to spend all your time at an event talking to one person. So, here are some ideas on how you can move from one good conversation to another:

  • “Thanks for your time. I told myself I would meet three interesting people today. I have two more to go.” Or;
  •  “There is someone over there that I need to connect with. Let’s get together soon.” Or;
  • “Is there anyone here in particular you would like to meet? I would be glad to introduce you.”

Any one of these can help you artfully move out of one conversation and set you up to start another.


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Tips For Improving Small Talk

Tips for Improving Small Talk

Small Talk is an art. Like any art, you can improve how you do it through practice. But it can be helpful to have some ideas for how to make small talk feel more comfortable and be more effective. Here are some tips for improving small talk.

  • THINK … On the way to an event (a party, meeting, or another social gathering) or when you have some idle time, work through in your mind how you envision your small talk going. Review in your mind the questions you will ask. Visualize yourself listening to the speaker, summarizing what they say, and sharing your own wisdom or experience.
  • LISTEN … Small talk is all around you, every day. Listen to it, especially when you notice someone who’s good at it. See how they flow from one question to the next and how they transition from small talk to business then back to small talk again before exiting the conversation.
  • ENGAGE … Take every opportunity to engage in small talk. When you are in line at the store check out. With a server in a restaurant. With the receptionist at your next appointment. You will find the more you engage in small talk, the more comfortable you get at it.

The most important thing you need to do to be good at small talk is developing an attitude of belief. Periodically, you need to tell yourself, “I can carry a conversation and I’m good at it. I enjoy how it lifts the spirits of others. And I love what it is doing for my networking. I can carry a conversation.” So at your next event try to use one or more of these tips for improving small talk.

Small Talk To Big Business

Small Talk to Big Business

Remember, small talk is the warm-up that leads to the workout. The workout is talking business. To make this happen, eventually, you need to transition from small talk to real business.

When this moment comes, you will know. At some point in your exchange there will be a lull. Use this moment to get at a more meaty discussion on business (whatever that might be).

Be forewarned, however, this is not to suggest that you start to pitch them or set them up for a close. It merely suggests that once you have them comfortably engaged in conversation, you should ease into a more professional discussion of their business or yours.

For example, a nice segue might be, “Water skiing isn’t cheap! What do you do professionally to pay for it?”

Do not try to steer them. For example, a business coach, should not ask, “Do you use business coaches in your business?” A financial advisor, should not open with, “How is your 401K doing these days?” A promotional products person should not jump to “How do you use ad specialty items in your business?”

Do NOT push it. Keep the tone light and the sales probing to a minimum. If you do this right, you will have lots of opportunities to gather future business intelligence, pitch them, and close them.  Remember, people do business with those they Know, Like & Trust.

Return To Small Talk

After the professional conversation has run its course but before the conversation ends, touch back on something related to your small talk conversation.

For example: “Great talking with you. Assuming, you don’t get laid up in the hospital skiing between now and then, I would enjoy continuing our conversation over a cup of coffee sometime.”

Why is this important? By returning to small talk, you have demonstrated that you were listening and that you remembered. More subtly, however, you are reflecting back to a part of the conversation when they likely delighted in your interest in them.

Great Questions To Ignite Small Talk

Great Questions To Ignite Small Talk

Small talk kick-starts the networking process. Small talk, however, is about getting the other person talking. This begs the question: What are great questions to ignite small talk?

While there is no magic, planning 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 which relates to the person’s life, either professionally or personally.

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. Note that these questions cannot be answered with a simple YES or NO. To generate conversation, questions must be open-ended.

And again, there is no magic. It is simply a matter of planning for how you will get and keep them talking.

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. Small talk is about getting the OTHER person to fill idle time with things to say and you genuinely finding interest in it. But what if you don’t like making small talk or don’t feel like you’re very good at it? Fear not! Below are three tips for making small talk.

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. It may sound backward but it’s just human nature. People tend to like those who show a genuine interest in them.

Step Three: Summarize & Share

As a follow-up (to show you were really listening), summarize what you have heard and then share a little about the subject as it relates to you. “So, as an avid water skier, all this hot weather must be great for you. But I find that it kills my golf game.”

Finally, just like the instructions 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 you ski when the weather is hot, how do you occupy yourself when it is too cold to take to the lake?” Whatever, the case, keep them talking.

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.

152) Returning To Small Talk

Returning to Small Talk

Great conversations start with small talk. It warms up the mood, right? Then at some point the dialogue shifts to business – a non-salesy exchange of general information.

However, after the professional conversation has run its course, before the conversation ends, it’s important to touch back on something related to your small talk conversation.

For example:

“Great talking with you. Assuming, you don’t get laid up in the hospital skiing between now and then, I would enjoy continuing our conversation over a cup of coffee sometime.”

Why is this important? Simple. By returning to small talk in this way, you have demonstrated that you were listening and that you remembered.

More subtly, however, you are reflecting back to a part of the conversation when they delighted in your interest in them. And, that can do nothing but help endear them to you.


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.

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!