By my own assessment, I’m terrible at small talk. That’s a huge problem for me at networking events, during cocktail parties and at professional conferences. I find idle chatter uncomfortable, I can’t think of anything to say; it all makes me extremely self conscious. I know, I know… that is the WRONG attitude to have! Well, I must tell you, the Super Bowl got me thinking about networking. My personal experience last night gave me tons of new fodder for cutting through the opening discomfort associated with small talk – I hope it resonates with you, too.
So, we had a few friends over last night, people were mingling, eating, laughing. Some sat near the television, others were in the kitchen nursing the food, a few hung out in the dining room, the kids ran the gamut. There was armchair commentary about the game, a lot of laughs at the commercials and, of course, the entire crew clambered to the living room to watch the Madonna half-time show. Basically, people ranging in age from two years to 45 years old were able to find common ground over food, sports, advertisements and musical entertainment.
Then, today at work, many conversations commenced with talk of the various facets of the big game from the night before. Again, people who come from different backgrounds, different walks of life, different interests engaged in easy dialogue about a popular topic.
So, dear networkers, what does this mean for us? It means that for those who struggle with small talk, we need only take a quick listen to what’s being discussed around the water cooler. By zeroing in on a few topics of general interest that transcend age, gender, political, religious lines, etc., we can begin conversations with most anyone we encounter. Once conversation begins, it can move on to other, more meaningful topics.
We must each take responsibility for breaking the ice. What do you plan to talk about? In addition to sports, funny commercials and rock ‘n’ roll, easy topics include food, the weather and even movies. Travel is a good one, too. Whatever it is, you need only a few factoids to get the conversation rolling. It’s up to you to foster dialogue. Once you are able to set others at ease, you, too, will be able to readily engage.
So, anyone know of a good lawn care company? Been to the new restaurant up the street? See that hilarious sitcom last week? Let’s talk.