Often, when talking about business networking or networking in general, I hear from network refusers that they hate small talk. Inevitably, many people associate networking with superficial conversations over a glass of wine, which they label as small talk. In their eyes, small talk is meaningless, not worth the slightest attention, and therefore useless. As an apparently sophisticated and profoundly thinking person, they probably don’t want to fall socially and intellectually.
However, have you ever experienced two people meeting each other for the very first time and having a profound and intellectually demanding conversation immediately after greeting and introducing themselves?
Yes, small talk is superficial at first, but who says it’s useless? How about looking at this form of conversation from a different angle?
Small talk serves various purposes, which we do not want to miss, especially in the initial phase of meeting a stranger:
- Get to know our conversation partner: Determine whether the conversation should be continued or not.
- Identify common topics or interests.
- It is a smooth transition phase towards Smart Talk: With it, we entry easily into a more in-depth, more personal conversation.
How to approach a small talk which brings you to smart talk
It is particularly important to show genuine interest and ask open questions. Furthermore, active listening is another fundamental step towards continuing communication, too.
Ask the other person
- in which area they are working
- what they think about the topic of the event
- what experience they have already gained in this field.
In a dialogue, you can also talk about yourself:
- Tell them about your point of view
- Share your own experiences and a bit of your knowledge
- Share your ideas
- Provide recommendations, be helpful as much as you can be.
Other non-business-related topics you also can use are:
- the weather
- the location you are at that moment
- the food you are enjoying together
- arts, languages
- books, movies, music… and more.
Please avoid controversial topics if you meet someone for the first time – politics, religion, health problems, death are only some. Stay as neutral as possible, and do not become abusive, insulting, or pessimistic.
One last thing to keep in mind:
Have fun meeting new people. Laugh and make a generally tolerable joke. Show your sense of humor and do not take yourself too seriously.