Small Talk Big Gains

Whether you are an introvert or an extrovert, sometimes the gift of gab or small talk eludes us when we are in a group. Many people would rather visit the dentist then strike up a conversation with a stranger. However, when you attend that quarterly meeting or the annual conference, you will want to be prepared. The goal of conversation is to establish enough common ground to determine a reason to connect again.

Here are some ideas to help you start the flow of conversation with less effort.

Ask Questions

“What is your connection to the event?” This question can uncover mutual contacts and usually leads to a more robust answer than if you asked the typical “Have you been to this event before?”

Avoid Questions with Yes or No Answers

Formulate the kind of questions where someone has to say more than a simple yes or no, for instance, “How did you come to be in this industry?”

Don’t Limit Yourself

Try to avoid beginning an exchange with “What do you do?” or “Where are you from?” These openers tend to not be memorable, because they are too generic. Instead, try to connect on a more personal level, “I’m looking for a new book, have you read any good ones lately?” Or, “I’m not sure where to go on vacation this year. Have you taken a great trip recently?”

Be an Attentive Listener

Sometimes the best conversation is to talk less. For the most part, people enjoy talking about themselves, especially if they have an attentive listener. Ask great questions by getting others to open up. The response you will receive will naturally springboard to more questions, and you will find you had an entire conversation, just by encouraging someone else to talk.

People Will Remember How You Made Them Feel

An informal conversation may lead to a genuine connection. Your words may be forgotten, but how you make people feel will be remembered.

When starting a new dialogue, do not feel you need to impress or think you must say something witty. Best advice – just be your authentic self. You want to gain new insights, not just share facts. Before you arrive to your event, come prepared with two or three things to talk about – scan the headlines, learn more about the guest speaker, or what movies or books are at the top of the list. The more prepared you are, the more confident you will be when approaching someone new.