What is small talk in business networking terms? In my mind, small talk is basically casual business conversation for the purpose of finding a mutual connection with someone that you might like to do business with.
It consists of these 3 phases:
1. The ice breaker
2. Get to know you better
3. Graceful exit
So let’s go ahead and briefly touch on each phase and in turn give you some concrete takeaway strategies that you can apply immediately at your next networking event!
Phase 1: The ice breaker
So you attend a networking event… you make eye contact with someone you want to meet, you approach them and introduce yourself… now what?
Well having a few powerful, open-ended ice breaker questions should certainly do the trick. For example:
Now notice on these sample ice breaker questions I’ve repeated the person’s name. First off by doing this it will help burn that person’s name into my head so I don’t forget it. Secondly, people love the sound of their own name – so don’t be afraid to use it throughout your conversation.
Phase 2: Get to know you better
Depending on the results of the ice breaker questions you should by now be able to determine whether or not it makes sense to get to know this person better. If not, simply skip this phase and go into your graceful exit. But if you do see a synergy here, by all means try some of these again open-ended, getting to know you better questions:
Now you can use one, two, all of these questions, or more in your networking if the situation permits. However, be careful here not to dominate and monopolize someone’s time. If you’re at a networking event, there’s a good chance that they’re there to network and meet other people as well, so it may make sense to go to the graceful exit phase and encourage that you two get together in the near future.
Phase 3: Graceful exit
It’s vastly important how you leave a conversation – as this is the last impression you make on that person. We’re not looking to create any animosity here by rudely blowing someone off. The key here is as this phase’s title states, is to exit gracefully.
A key difference between the types of questions or statements you make in this phase as opposed to the previous two phases is that now you shift to using close-ended ones. For example: