I had the great pleasure of interviewing Debra Fine, bestselling author, sought after public speaker and trainer and the author of The Fine Art of Small Talk. A study at the Stanford University School of Business tracked MBAs 10 years after they graduated. It turns out that grade point averages had no bearing on their success but their ability to have conversations with others did.
Debra Fine has made a career out of teaching others to feel comfortable starting and ending conversations in those classic networking situations that are so crucial in the job search and in the professional arena.
She has come up with twelve tips to help you master your technique and your self confidence when the need for small talk arises. Here are the first six steps.
- As you prepare for a function, come up with three things to talk about as well as four generic questions that will get others talking. If you’ve met any of the participants before, try and remember something about them, such as their passion for a particular sport or a charity you both support.
- Be the first to say “Hello.” If you are not sure the other person will remember you be sure to offer your name to ease the pressure on them. For example, “John Smith? Caroline Dowd-Higgins – good to see you again.” Smile and shake hands when you meet someone.
- Take time during introductions. Make an extra effort to remember names (repeating them aloud helps) and use them frequently.
- Get the other person talking by leading with a common ground statement regarding the event or location and then asking a related open-ended question. For example: “Attendance looks higher than last year, how long have you been coming to these conventions?”
- Stay focused on your conversation partner by actively listening and giving feedback. Maintain eye contact and never glance around the room while they are talking to you. Your focus equals your respect.
- Listen more than you talk.
Stay tuned for six additional small talk techniques from Debra Fine coming soon.