Small Talk Matters — Mastering The Art Of Conversation
Who finds conversation difficult? Is conversation and making small talk really necessary in business?
Well, yes, conversation really does matter!
For it is the basis of building the vital relationships you need for business. Here are some tips and strategies to start a conversation, keep it going and more importantly finish the conversation.
It’s easy to make conversation – well, isn’t it? Yes, it can be easy to have a conversation with your best friend, with your family, with people you know.
However, it doesn’t seem quite so easy when you are in a business situation, a dinner, or at a network meeting or at a conference or event when you don’t know most of the people. And how many of you find the prospect of making “small talk” difficult, boring or tedious?
Conversation is part of communication and communication, and speaking underpins everything you do in business. Mastering the art of conversation will give you the skills to connect with your clients, to grow your business, and to enhance your staff and team skills. This helps to enable you to be the success you want to be as an entrepreneur and improve your personal relationships. If you want to get your message across about your product or service, if you want to build those vital business relationships, you need to add good conversation skills to your business strategies.
The next time you are facing the daunting task of having a conversation think about these tips:
- Remember, if you are feeling unsure on how to start a conversation then it is very likely that the other person is having a similar problem. You are not alone.
- Introduce yourself and ask questions. Simply say Hi and then ask a question.
- Ask a question: prepare some topics. This is the time for that important small talk. The talk may be around the event, about the speakers, about their business, about them or even about the weather.
- Use open questions where possible. If you use a closed question or are asked a closed question be prepared to expand on the answer. Open questions allow others to talk – you talk less. They show you are interested in them and it gives you more information to continue the conversation.
- Most importantly, listen. The key to the art of conversation is not in the talking, but in the listening.
The conversation has patterns:speaking, switching and listening. Take your turn. A conversation is a group project, with each person weaving in their contribution here and there. It’s no time for monologues. If you notice that you have talked for a few minutes without any questions, comments, or general signs of life from other people, you are monopolising the conversation – give someone else a chance to speak.
If you want the other person to feel comfortable you need to send them positive messages – and not just verbally. Your face needs to reflect your interest in talking to this person – smiling indicates liking and an absence of threat – and looking into the other’s eyes shows you are genuinely interested; but be sensitive to cultural differences.
Supportive gestures like nodding when the other is speaking will demonstrate that you are listening and encourage their continued participation. When it is your turn to speak make sure that you speak clearly and slightly slower than normal. Nerves often make our voice shrill and our speech too fast.
Finish the conversation. Knowing how to end the conversation is a great skill to learn. Start by edging and turning very slightly away from the person. Break eye contact deliberately; if you have been called look to that person, if it is getting late look towards the door, if you just need to get away look to someone else. Follow this by holding out your hand for a final handshake and deliver your message.
Enjoy your conversation – practice your small talk. When you remember that conversations and small talk are the start of building relations in your business, you realise that small talk does matter. Conversations matter – make them count.