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.

Networking Conversation

Networking Conversation

At a networking event, once you have exchanged names, conversation will likely ensue. Engage In It.

In so doing, 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 on the event itself. Get them talking on anything other than business. This will serve to make the connection comfortable.

After a few or even several minutes 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.

30-Second Commercial 6 of 8

 

Now clearly articulating WHO you are, WHAT you do and WHY you are uniquely qualified is nice. However, in a sense, it is like having a souped up car with no wheels. To complete your 30-second commercial, you need to clearly state WHAT it is you need.

I hear a lot of 30-second commercials and many of them have a weak finish. This is because they have a wimpy ASK or request. The best way to illustrate this is through an example … an example of what NOT to do. Do not make your HOW statement something like, “A good referral for me is someone in transition or not happy with the direction of their career.” Rather, here is a better example.

“If you know of someone in transition or not happy with the direction of their career please introduce me to them.”

The main difference between these two is that the second has a “call to action.” If you see or know of this, please send it my way … Or give me their number … Or invite them to my seminar.

The first example, “A good referral for me is someone in transition or not happy with the direction of their career” gives the same information, but it leaves someone wanting to say, “That’s nice.”

It is like my kids. They will say, “Dad, I am hungry.” And my response is, “Thanks. That is good to know.” They know now they need to make a Strong Definite Request. “Dad, can you cook me Mac-n-Cheese?” They are asking for action, which is far more powerful.

30-Second Commercial 5 of 8

 

Everyone has competition, including you. What makes you unique amongst your competition?

Again, WHY you? Your 30-second commercial needs to convey credibility and confidence that serves to answer that question before it is asked. Consider an example.

“Not only have I helped more than 100 people get into the right franchise, I also spent 10 years as a CPA … helping my clients know what they were getting.”

Who would a prospective franchisee prefer to work with? Just anyone or someone with this background? The answer should be obvious (at least the question was intended to be rhetorical). The point is that Inspiring Confidence (answering the “WHY you?”) is vital to your 30-second commercial.

30-Second Commercial 4 of 8

 

There are few options to the basic introduction (as discussed in part 3); it is largely void of creativity, right? That’s okay, because you can more than make up for it with the Message Body. This is essentially the heart and soul of your message and you can approach it from lots of different angles … You can INFORM the person or EDUCATE … You can even AMUSE or STARTLE them to get the point across.

You might be thinking, “There is nothing remarkable to what I do.” Certainly, what you do may seem like basic vanilla. What you need to give yourself credit for (and convey in your messages) are all the different WHEREs and HOWs you do what you do. With that, you can add some creativity to your message body.

For example, a real estate agent may help people buy a house. There are lots of reasons when they do this.

  • Get out of an apartment.
  • To have a bigger house.
  • To have a second house.
  • To have a smaller house.
  • To flip.
  • To rent.

Each of these could be the basis for a completely separate message body. No doubt, you can do the same for your business or profession. Read on in Part 5.

Exit Gracefully From Networking Conversations

Business connections at networking events are great. Whatever the case, do not churn the entire event away in a single one. Nothing says that you need to engage in a dozen different conversations over the course of an hour. Two or three is plenty. Remember this is not speed dating, rather, it’s networking (building relationships). Given that, you should develop some ways of moving on. As with anything else, honesty is the best policy.

Here are some great lines for doing that:

• “Thanks for your time. I told myself I would meet three interesting people at this event. I have two more to go.”

• “There is someone over there that I need to connect with.”

• “Is there anyone here in particular you would like to meet? I would be glad to introduce you.”

30-Second Commercial: Part 2 of 8

To build a strong network of contacts that give you referrals, contacts and information, you need to have a concise, yet very compelling, 30-second commercial. The problem is that you have SO MUCH to say and 30 seconds is really not a lot of time.

So to conquer the challenge of conveying lots of information in a short period of time, it is helpful to have a framework to work with. Here is an effective one:

• Start with a basic introduction for yourself (this addresses the WHO you are) …

• Add to that a Message (which addresses the WHAT you do) …

• From there, you need to Inspire Confidence or create credibility (which tackles the WHY you over all the other choices) …

• Then you wrap this up with a Strong Definite Request of what you need (this is the HOW they can help you).

Now, if you carefully draft each of these sub-parts and then piece them together with your own personal flair, you end up with a very effective 30-second commercial. For more, see Part 3.

30-Second Commercials: Part 1 of 8

Essentially, networking is about you creating a series of relationships (also known as a network). The end game for you is to get the network to help you. To get this, three things need to happen … Your network needs to KNOW you … Your network needs to LIKE you … And, your network needs to TRUST you.

Now, in establishing this KNOW, LIKE & TRUST, those you hope to add to your network NEED (not just WANT, but NEED) to have a firm sense as to…

• WHO you are (name, business name, basic product/service) …

• WHAT you do (along with when you do it) …

• WHY they should do business with you or WHY they should refer you as opposed to other options

• And, HOW they can help you (Who are people you want to be referred to? … Who do you want to meet? … What information do you need?).

In a networking sense, the primary limitation to communicating all this (especially amongst people you are meeting for the first time) is simply ATTENTION SPAN.

In somewhere around 30 seconds, you need to effectively communicate all these things or lose (or at least risk losing) their minds to something (or someone) else. For more, see Part 2.