5 Tips For Making Small Talk
As we plan for the new year we usually have lots of plans. Many of us plan on networking for many reasons, yet even the most verbal individuals sometimes feel awkward when meeting people for the first time. To make the most of your interactions and have some stimulating conversation, here are 5 Tips To Making Small Talk:
1. Preparation, preparation, preparation – The best way to enter a meeting or event where you don’t know a lot of other people is to be prepared. A good way to be prepared is to be up to date on some current events, but let’s remember to stay away from the adage of not talking about religion nor politics. What topics interest you? What is the theme of the gathering? These are great starting places. From there, gaze through some recent magazines, e-zines, or your favorite websites to find current events. Once you have some knowledge about the topics, develop 3 key points and 3 questions that you would pose to your new-found acquaintances about each of those topics.
2. Elaborate on your responses when asked a question – If someone asks the all-too-common question, “What do you do for a living?” have a response prepared that goes beyond title and tasks. Think about the impact of what you do. Craft a response that not only tells the person about you, but also leads to additional conversation.
3. Show Genuine Interest in the Other Person – People enjoy talking about themselves, so put your listening skills to great use. You can begin with non-threatening questions about how they decided to attend the event, what they enjoy doing over the holidays, or even the best way they would choose to celebrate an occasion; these questions can expand into different dialogues.
4. Treat Silence as a Transition – Pauses may seem very long, but chances are they’re only a few seconds. Often the other person is processing information. There is a balance between being the person who never takes a breath and not saying anything. Allow the silence to linger a few seconds and then re-direct the conversation to a topic that is familiar to you and that most people can generally talk about. Of course, read body language. If the person is not looking at you and looks like they want to get away, don’t take it personally. Give the person an easy opportunity to leave the conversation. Simply say “It was very nice talking with you; have a nice evening.” You will likely feel better about yourself when you do by giving them an exit instead of waiting for a rejection.
5. The Graceful Exit – Once the conversation seems complete for you, it is perfectly acceptable to nicely say something to exit dialogue. Think of something the person said that was of interest, and simply say “I’ve enjoyed talking with you about . . .” “I hope to see you again.”
With these tips in hand, you can navigate any networking or social event, and in the process you will likely make some new friends and valuable contacts to add to your personal or professional network.
For more info on networking the right way and making successful small talk, contact Diane Allen and request a FREE TIP SHEET on How To Ask Questions!
About the Author:
Diane Allen is a leadership development consultant and founder of the Strategic Leadership Academy (www.strategicleadershipacademy.com). She has spent over twelve years helping senior leaders and middle managers create success by building their personal and organizational leadership skills.