Small Talk? How about Smart Conversation?

Some people are an absolute genius when it comes to small talk and social chatter. They can be put in any social situation and they will come up with topics to discuss with the person in front of them. Yes, we all envy them. In the following video, Kalina Silverman addresses the issue of Skipping  Small Talk and Connect With Others at TEDx Westminster College:

The thing is, nothing comes out of that mindless chatter, as they move from one person to the next. If you are one of those people with this natural gift, here’s what you need to know to enhance that small talk into a smart conversation. Make use of what you’ve got!

In the video, Kalina sais how she wanted to see what might happen if she would approach strangers, skip the small talk, and rather get into a more meaningful conversation right away. The conversations she had and the stories she heard indicated that good things can happen if you take the time to ask people directly to react to questions about the things that really matter in life.

Instead of…

  • Asking for answers, ask for a story. That’s right! Avoid asking yes or no questions, instead ask questions that they wouldn’t expect, like “How did you end up in your line of work?” Children also have the right to do so and it really works. There’s always a story associated with that one. Some other examples are:

“So, what’s next for you?”

“What do you think was a turning point in your career?”

  • Agreeing with what they say, say something else! If you simply nod and agree with a remark the other person makes, the conversation goes nowhere! Try challenging the other person, making them think about the whys and the Be proactive! Even gifted children have that great impact on other children. Learn how to behave gifted, even if you think that makes you look absurd. Absurdity is the new interesting.
  • Worrying about what the other will think about you, find out what they think about you! Don’t hesitate to say something because you fear the other person’s response. It is natural to want to protect yourself in front of a stranger by not opening up but that is one of the easiest ways to make the other person comfortable around you! Be comfortable around them! The conversation will flow much more easily. When we see honesty in others we open up to them too, because we start relating.

It is the ideas that the entrepreneurs start with. Turn small talk into big business ideas! Talk about what you, the graduate, think of, for example, the ridiculous amount of the average student loan. You never know when you might stumble upon one that’s worth expanding into your next business.

How to get over you Fear Of Networking

Networking is a big part of expanding your business. It gives you the opportunity to meet new people and make new contacts as well as prospective clients. No matter how advanced social media gets and online marketing gets, good old-fashioned word of mouth still works wonders in the entrepreneurial world.

Now that we’ve established that networking is something an entrepreneur cannot do without, does the mere name of networking at a social event where you don’t know anybody send you into a fit of anxiety? Have no fear! In doubt, take on an online education degree, but be aware that an online course is really a course in discipline!

Here are 5 tips to start a conversation at a networking event that will drive away the butterflies in your stomach and make you wonder why you ever had difficulty mingling in a room full of strangers.

Remember- public speaking skills are not just for a presentation

A one on one conversation requires just as much speaking skills as a public presentation. You need to be able to use the same strategy you would use to gain an audience’s attention to gain the person you are speaking to at a networking event. You may well explore your passion for public speaking to earn some income. Practicing your public speaking skills is one of the best ways to get yourself comfortable enough to chat with fellow entrepreneurs at a networking event.

Make them feel valued

When you talk to someone at an event, make sure you don’t just rattle on about yourself and your accomplishments and how you would be an amazing employee- (Sure, all this stuff sounds good in your head while you are giving yourself a pep talk). When you are talking to fellow entrepreneurs, you don’t want to sound too cocky, so be sure to ask about the other person as well. Try asking open-ended questions that allow you to carry on a conversation that shows that you are interested in what others have to say. Avoid questions that can be answered with a yes or no.

Remember their name- and say it often

Many studies have shown that when you address a person by their name, it makes the conversation more personal and they are instinctively more likely to trust you. This is a strategy also taught to contact center agents who have to build a rapport with someone they don’t know over the phone. Throwing the client’s name several times into the conversation will make them listen to you more attentively. That’s the old marketing trick. The same goes for when you’re networking with a stranger face to face. But even if you know how to market it, the question remains, will the come?

Want a good conversation starter? Try hanging out near the food

No joke! People will love to start off a conversation discussing (or dissing- depending on how it tastes) food! It will break the ice much more easily than going up to a person and introducing yourself and then frantically wondering how to start the conversation. People are always much more relaxed near the food, and more open to start a conversation sharing their guilty treats and laughing over them and voila, the perfect segue into “By the way my name is-“ and so on.

Try to approach groups of people instead of individuals

This is a good strategy for someone who is new to networking events and is nervous about approaching people. This helps you to build your professional playground. When you make conversation in a group you don’t have the problem of running out of things to say as quickly as you would with just one person. You can move around the people in the group and with everyone contributing, there are more things to talk about (thus, less chance of the dreaded awkward silences). Once you gain a bit of confidence, you can move on to a one on one conversation.

What are you waiting for? Send out that networking event R.S.V.P. that’s been sitting (and feeling ignored) in your inbox, dress to impress and get started on practicing these tips!