Is the world of small talk scary terrain for you? Well I have bad news – it’s virtually inescapable. It’s getting to be so common that in order to successfully function in society, one is required to dabble in the fine arts of small talk from time to time. But don’t fret, you can improve your skills through practice. The more you do it, the easier it will be, and the smarter you will become. Just know this:
The Internet Is Your Friend
Before heading out to a networking event, wedding, or social setting, skim through Yahoo or Google news to see what’s a current topic of interest. Store some facts in your brain to throw out if your conversation gets a little bland. If this is a gathering of people you’ve met before, try to remember a few things that they are passionate about such as art, hiking, fine china, and see if there are any new articles you can scan before bumping into them. Preparation helps ease any awkwardness.
Get to Know People
“I’ve been thinking about traveling again, have you been anywhere lately?” People love to talk about themselves, their kids, their hobbies, and their vacations. Be a great listener. Ask interesting follow-up questions. “Oh you went to Bora Bora, is it as beautiful as it seems? How was the food? Where did you stay?” Truthfully, the conversation doesn’t even need to be that specific. If it’s more of an informal setting and you’ve previously met them, try kicking off the conversation with a simple, “So bring me up to speed.” Show them your interested.
Properly Introduce Others
This may take some memorization skills, but here’s a common example. Say you are talking to Laura, and Bill walks up. Try to be as relaxed and genuine as possible and say something to the effect of, “Hi Bill! Bill this is Laura, she’s a professional chef who just relocated here from Philadelphia. Laura this is Bill, he is an entertainment lawyer who represents A-listers by day and is quite the foodie by night.” Now they know that there’s common ground in not only knowing you, but in cuisine. This introduction is an instant conversation starter.
Be Aware of Your Own Body Language
This may seem like unnecessary work on top of already trying to create and steer conversations, but it’s important. React to what people are saying. If it’s supposed to be surprising information, act surprised. If you are supposed to be enjoying the conversation, make sure you at least have a slight smile while they are speaking. Laugh when they laugh…well, at least chuckle. Cater to your audience. Finally, stand up straight. Good posture conveys confidence whether standing or seated. In fact if you are seated, lean in a bit to seem even more engaged in the conversation at hand.
But above all else, be friendly and polite. The art of small talk isn’t easy but can absolutely be mastered. The more practice you have with these techniques, the more natural this will feel. Now get out there and start mingling!