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When it comes to business, no talk is too small
The Rocky Mountain News

Some people view small talk as inconsequential, but it is truly the appetizer for every business relationship. Small talk can turn a challenging situation during an awkward social gathering into a success. Small talk connects us, whether the setting is business or social.

Do you dread networking events, and other business related social events? Does attending another open house make you want to run inside your own and lock the door? You’re not alone. Many of us feel apprehensive about these situations because most of us hate entering rooms where we don’t know anyone in them.

Keeping a conversation going during social occasions is an ordeal.

But for business professionals, these occasions represent opportunities to develop business friendships and broaden our networks. Whether you realize it or not, networking happens all the time.

Here are a few tips business people can use to improve their mall talk skills:

·        Be the first to say “Hello!”

·        Introduce yourself. Act as if you’re the host and introduce new arrivals to your conversational partner or partners.

·        Smile first and always shake hands when you meet anyone.

·        Take your time during introductions! Make an extra effort to remember names, and use their name frequently in the conversation with them.

·        Maintain eye contact in any conversation. Many people in a group of three or more people look around in the hope that others in the group will maintain eye contact for them. But people don’t feel listened to if you’re not looking at them.

·        Get somebody to talk about why they’re attending the event, and you’re on your way to engaging them in conversation

·        Show an interest in every person. The more interest you show, the more wise and attractive you become to others.

·        Listen carefully for information that can keep the conversation going.

·        Remember: People want to be with people who make them feel special, not people who are “special.” Take responsibility to help people you talk to feel as if they’re the only person in the room.

·        Play the conversation “game.” When someone asks, “How’s business?” or “What’s going on?” answer with more than “Not much.” Tell more about yourself so that others can learn more about you.

·        But be careful with business acquaintances. You wouldn’t want to open a conversation with: “How’s your job at (fill in the blank)?” What if that person was just fired or laid off? Be careful when you’re asking about an acquaintance’s spouse or special friend: you could regret it.

·        Don’t act like you’re an FBI agent. Questions like: “What do you do?”; “Are you married?”; “Do you have children?” and “Where are you from?” lead to dead-end conversations.

·        Be aware of body language. Nervous or ill-at-ease people make others uncomfortable. Act confident and comfortable, even when you’re not.

·        Be prepared. Spend a few minutes before an anticipated event preparing to talk easily about three topics. They will come in handy when you find yourself in the middle of an awkward moment … or seated at a table of eight where everyone is playing with their food.

·        Show an interest in your conversational partner’s opinion, too. You’re not the only person who has opinions about Larry Walker’s contact, how Y2K will affect our lives or what will happen to the stock market.

·        Stop conversation monopolists in their tracks. If possible, wait for the person to take a breath or to pause, then break in with a comment about their topic. Immediately then lead the conversation in the direction in which you want it to go.

·        Be prepared with exit lines. You do need to move around and meet others.

·        Don’t melt from conversations. Make a positive impression by shaking hands and saying goodbye as you leave

Every encounter involves risk. As long as you keep looking for new people to meet, and you show an interest in other people, you can make friends and enjoy lively conversations.

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CBS Sunday Morning
Mastering The Art of Small Talk

Debra Fine special on CBS Channel 4 News. Debra Fine is a professional speaker, best selling author, conversation expert, communication guru, and a nationally recognized spokesperson.

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