A tale as old as time – a client invites you to a party or social event, and you accept because it’d be rude not to. When you get there, you discover you’re surrounded by clients and other people you’re not too familiar with. You make an executive decision to just sit in a corner and wait for an acceptable time for you to take your leave.
A lot of us would rather exclude ourselves from an event rather than make small talk because small talk is difficult. It actually doesn’t have to be, and we can help with that:
1. Look for possible conversation partners.
It can be a little awkward looking for possible people to talk to during a social event, but we have three scenarios that might make it easier. Look for either (1) a fun, inviting group, (2) loners who will welcome your attempt at dialogue, and (3) familiar faces.
2. Establish common ground.
Once you’ve found a potential conversation partner, the easiest way to get the conversation going (right after “So what brings you here today?”) would be to find common ground. Asking questions about their work, their interests, or their lives will enable you to interject every now and then with your own anecdotes, and liven up the conversation.
3. Make them feel comfortable.
Ask questions that will make people feel at ease with you, when you find that common ground, or if you notice they have a particular interest, or passion for a certain topic, probe a little bit more about it! Genuine interest in another person’s interests will make them feel more comfortable in talking to you.
4. Match your questions to the environment around you.
Topics that are too sensitive may lead to heated conversation and you don’t want to end up making a scene in front of strangers. While shop talk is fine, avoid intricate details and sensitive topics (e.g. politics, religion, etc.) because you aren’t sure if everyone within earshot is trustworthy of such sensitive information.
5. Have a good attitude.
It’s easy for a conversation with someone new to get a bit dull, but don’t let it show. When asking questions, always sound interested, and not bored. You never know if the person you’re talking to could be a potential client or someone that could help you with your current clients, or a potential friend.
Small talk is difficult, but it doesn’t have to be when you have confidence. Learn more at John Robert Powers.