18 tips to master the art of small talk-Business Etiquette

Do you just dread the networking event or company function coming up because it means you need to make small talk with strangers? Making an effort to improve your small talk skills will assist you in climbing the ladder of success and improving your business etiquette. Stop stressing and start impressing with these tips on how to make your conversations at any event a successful and pleasant experience.

1. Before the event – practice in low risk situations e.g. the line at the supermarket till

2. Do your homework and be prepared-this will make you feel more confident. Contact the event organizer and try to find out who will be attending. Identify specific individuals you would like to meet at the event

3. When walking through the room – catch the eye of an approachable looking individual. Don’t approach a group of 2 people – they are probably deep in conversation – you will feel awkard and them uncomfortable.

4. Display engaging body language: warm smile, eye contact, assertive handshake, nodding when listening to someone

5. View yourself as the host instead of a guest. A host takes the initiative in talking introduces people and makes others feel comfortable.

6. The best connectors ask the best questions. Tune off the radio station WIIFM (what’s in it for me) tune on to the station WIIFT – (what’s in it for them)

7. If possible find out what the interests of the people you are meeting are before the event – then do your homework around the subject e.g. Johan is an avid golfer – find out what some of the best golf courses are, what are the latest tournaments around the world, interesting information about top golfers.

8. If you don’t know anything about the other person ask simple questions such as “ How do you know the host?”

9. Ask open ended questions (do not require yes or no answers) e.g. what do you enjoy the most about your profession not do you enjoy being an auditor. Open ended questions allows the conversation to flow.

10. Once they respond to the first question ask clarifying questions about their answer e.g.
• How similar / different is that to…
• What brought you to …
• How do you feel about …

11. Know the latest industry news and happenings – so you can ask the right questions and will be seen as current with your information knowledge e.g. going to a financial services type event – read the latest financial journals, be up to scratch on the latest budget speech information

12. Read a daily newspaper, go onto news 24 or watch the TV news to ensure you are up to date with business news and current affairs

13. Avoid conversation killers:
• politics
• religion
• gossip

14. Mirror and match the person’s talking pace and energy-if they are upbeat and speak fast, don’t speak slowly and have a low energy. This can aggravate your listener – the opposite is true also.

15. Be in the moment and focused on your conversation partner – don’t let your eyes wonder around the room looking for someone more interesting to talk to. This will make you look disinterested and unauthentic.

16. Do not interrupt others or talk over them when they are speaking. Use phrases of encouragement like:
“That is incredible interesting, I would really like to know more about…”
“I find that an amazing achievement, tell me a little bit more of how you…”
“I can understand how that can be challenging for you”

17. Wear a conversation piece – that will sparks people’s attention and allow for small talk to begin e.g. and interesting tie knot, a unique necklace

18. Try end off the conversation with a compliment “ You have such a positive attitude – its contagious”

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