Here’s how to feel more comfortable with small talk
Last year I worked with a client, a CEO, whose organisation conducts numerous conferences during the year. And the CEO is the main emcee for the events.
One area of need my client had at the events, was how to feel more comfortable with small talk, at the inevitable short interactions he would have with delegates during the conference. Types of interaction included; while waiting for a lift; in a lift, in a queue for coffee; the milling around time in a room just before a meeting started or after a meeting had ended and at the lunch buffet.
During the event, he wanted to be gracious with delegate interaction, but feared becoming involved in long discussions, that would put time pressure on the myriad tasks he needed to attend to.
Below are some ideas and techniques I shared with my client on how he could handle these ‘waiting and chance encounter times’ interactions’.
As discussed in our session regarding your identity, your belief about chance interactions and waiting time encounters will ‘bubble up’ and surface to your behaviours. One identity you might hold, that I hold is this:
“Everyone I meet knows something I don’t know. My job is to listen long enough to find it and use it’. In effect, be genuinely curious.”
Facial expression and body language
– Upon greeting, radiate warmth and acceptance and calm enthusiasm through your facial expression. Hang your arms at the side of your torso.
‘G’day em, Gun em, G’bye em’
I once heard a radio talk-back host say that whenever a caller rang in he would ‘drive’ the caller into his rhythm of speaking, that would keep the discussion moving to its conclusion. He said ‘I G’day em (ie. greet them); Gun em (Ask them questions) G’bye em (farewell them).
Keeping the ‘G’day em, Gun em, G’bye em’ rhythm in mind during your interactions.
Ask questions that can be answered simply. This will give you control over the interaction and make exits smoother. Make follow up questions and comments based on what the person has just said, if possible.
Ask people questions that can be answered in a word or phrase
Ask questions that can be answered simply. This will give you more control over the interaction and make exits smoother. Make follow up questions and comments based on what the person has just said, if possible.
One question could be: “How’s the day going for you? Listen and make your next comment about what the person has just said. For example, if they say eg. ‘Too many sessions to choose from . . . I’m a bit overwhelmed”, you could respond… “Thanks for that feedback, I’ll see how we might make it less overwhelming (then take your leave)
Another question might be: What’s session is top of your list to attend for the rest of the day?’
(Now if the person answers your question in a verbose manner, you might say eg. when you exit the lift… “X, I have somewhere I have to be 90 seconds that I . . .Thanks for your insight . . . let’s talk later (then exit the interaction).
Own the Conversation
- Choose one of the above suggestions to trial when you next host, emcee et al an event, etc.
- Reflect on the results of the trial.
Do let me know if you have any ideas on how to be more comfortable with ‘small’ talk.