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 filling idle time with things to say and you genuinely finding interest in it.
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 game plan 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 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 counterintuitive, but 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, rinses 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.