The Art of Small Talk

It is summer and the social calendar is booked with all kinds of activities!  Whether you are attending a business event or a personal BBQ, you will be in face-to-face situations where you will need to strike up a conversation.  This prospect strikes fear in many people. I often hear that people say they “dread small talk.”  That they “just can’t get started.” That is is “meaningless.”  I argue that none of the above needs to be the case.  Here are a few steps for smoothing out the distaste for striking up conversations:

  • Approach an individual or a group of 3 people and introduce yourself. It is easier to break into groups of odd numbers.
  • Prepare 3 topics to talk about before you arrive so that you have them ready to use “on the fly.”
  • Prepare 4 event-related or business-related open-ended questions that get people talking.
  • Be the first to say ‘Hello’ to someone.
  • Avoid negative or controversial topics.
  • Avoid religion and politics.
  • Introduce new people you meet by name to others at the event and mention information about the person to help transition to conversation.
  • Repeat the names of the people you meet.

The best thing about small talk?  It potentially leads to BIG talk that builds meaningful relationships.