Simple productive tip on How to make (better) small talk and increase your chances of getting lucky.
Do you dread networking?
Are you one of those people who show up to events and then hover in the corner of the room, avoiding eye contact? Or maybe you’re one of those people who tend to hang out with the people you already know.
I’m not a natural extrovert. Talking to strangers used to cause me a lot of anxiety. So for the longest time, I managed to convince myself that I didn’t need to.
But then I thought about how people make friends, spark romances, and open doors to new opportunities for themselves.
Were they just lucky?
But more likely it all started with small talk.
The good news is that it’s not as hard as you think.
Here are a few tips to take with you the next time you head out.
First, it’s up to you to start it.
Chances are, the other person is just as shy as you are or even more so. Most of us are afraid of initiating because we fear rejection. Simply acknowledge that whatever happens, happens.
At least you gave it your best shot.
(And hey life is really all about a bunch of your best shots when all is said and done…)
Find a few people who look interesting
If you want to see what I mean, try a simple experiment. The next time you’re out and about, make it a point to identify ten people you might approach.
First, read the situation. Don’t go interrupting someone who is obviously in the middle of something. Or looks like they want to be alone.
At a networking event or party, most people are open to meeting others. However, if you’re at a coffee shop perhaps the person just wants to get their coffee or sit and read a book.
Get 20 seconds of courage
Once you’ve identified these people, let go of your fear of rejection. Muster up 20 seconds of courage and approach one of them.
Play you’re the host
Here’s the thing with conversations. Someone needs to be the host.
And that needs to be you.
Maybe you’ll get lucky and the other person will take responsibility and take charge. And maybe you won’t.
At the end of the day, the only way to ensure you absolutely will have a good conversation is if you assume the responsibility to be one who takes charge.
Remember their name
This is a really good way to establish yourself as a leader. But what if you’re bad at remembering names?
People do appreciate when you take the time and effort to remember their name, especially in a distracted world where we have many things clamoring for our attention.
A little effort goes a long way.
Have a few icebreakers in your back pocket
Don’t just ask what they do for a living. Ask how they got started in the industry, or about their hobbies.
Have this question ready before you start networking so you know exactly what you’re going to ask. I like to plan this in advance and the question changes depending on the event I’m attending.
After you do this for a while, you might find the same questions starting to get tedious and predictable.
Switch it up and try more interesting ones.
Don’t ask generic questions
Have you ever had someone ask you bland and uninspiring questions such as:
“How was your weekend?”
“How have you been?”
“How was work today?”
We all know the answer to this is a relatively short one:
“Good. And you?”
A generic question, especially coming from someone who doesn’t know you well, can come across as being thoughtless and shallow.
Do ask interesting questions
Instead, try a variation that is slightly more specific.
Ask something like:
“What was the highlight of your weekend?”
“What was your favorite part of the movie?”
“What did you think of the talk?”
Or when it comes to your kids, don’t just ask them how school was today. Instead, ask them about their favorite class and then why they liked it.
Also if you do get that question of how your weekend was, share a bit about yourself before you return the question. If you simply say “Good. And yours?” you may get an equally thoughtless response and then awkward silence.
(One caveat: if you’re headed into a meaty discussion then obviously this would be just fine and you can save the stories for social hour…)
Read the situation
Also, you might still encounter times where the other person just isn’t feeling like talking about that particular subject you brought up.
Respect them and change topics.
Use a variety of questions to keep the conversation alive.
Sometimes no matter how good a conversation is flowing, you will inevitably encounter an awkward pause.
Try asking about their family, occupation, recreation, or something offbeat.
What about what the person is wearing, the venue you’re in, or details about the event you’re attending? All easy topics that you can draw upon when the conversation slows down, or when you’re looking to start a new conversation.
Be an active listener
You can do this by asking a followup question, responding enthusiastically, and occasionally clarifying what they said to make sure you understood it correctly.
If you’re finding your attention drifting, you’ll need to close it quickly so you can move onto your next conversation.
Also no matter how great the conversation is, all good things must come to an end.
In either case, you’ll want to leave gracefully…
Leave a strong impression
Just as first impressions count, you should think of every conversation as a sandwich.
Whether it was a good or boring conversation, you should always exit gracefully.
Summarize the highlights of your conversation and address the person by name saying how wonderful it was to connect on this topic.
If you genuinely want to keep the connection, take the reigns and ask how to best connect at a future point in time.
When the time comes to end the interaction, say what you’re going to do next and leave with a firm handshake.
Another way to leave is to introduce him or her to someone else. That way you’re not leaving your conversation partner stranded on the dance floor.
Remember to have fun
Don’t worry if you don’t remember to do all the things I listed above in every single conversation. I suggest you focus on improving just 1–2 tactics at a time.
And as you start getting better at having really great conversations, you’ll attract even more with your newfound confidence, enthusiasm, and energy.
You’ll start looking forward to meaningful encounters every time you go out.
We live in a high-tech world and face-to-face conversations are becoming increasingly rare.
But maybe that next conversation you have will change your life forever.
Use this playbook and implement a few of these tactics for a kick-ass conversation with a complete stranger:
- First, it’s up to you to start it.
- Find a few people who look interesting
- Get 20 seconds of courage
- Play you’re the host
- Remember their name
- Have a few icebreakers in your back pocket
- Don’t ask generic questions
- Do ask interesting questions
- Read the situation
- Be an active listener
- Leave a strong impression
- Remember to have fun