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Guide To Business Small Talk


Business small talks can be a defining moment in your lifetime, so seize the moment. Learning to make small talk can help build the confidence you need to initiate conversations, make connections, and develop your social skills. 

Even if you are uncomfortable with it, avoiding conversations only worsens the anxiety in the long run.

In this guide, we’ll talk you through the step-by-step process of how to make a small business talk. Carefully read through!

What Is Business Small Talk?

Wikijob defines business small talk as conversations conducted in a business setting – such as in the empty moments before a meeting. It differs from the small talk as there is often an agenda behind the chit-chat – this could be networking or finding out more about your clients.

Basically, business small talk is a short, friendly conversation about common topics. It can take place among friends, co-workers, or strangers.

How To Make Business Small Talks: Step by Step Guide

Here’s a list of step-by-step tips that will help you get better with small talks.

1. Ask Open-Ended Questions

Most people enjoy talking about themselves — not only are we our favorite subjects, but it’s also easier to discuss something you feel and understand than something you know nothing about.

Open-ended questions invite the respondent to divulge information and keep the conversation flowing. An example could be, “What do you think about the proposed acquisition?

2. You can start with a compliment

A little compliment can help you to create a good impression and oil the wheels of social contact. Try not to say anything personal about their appearance and to keep your remarks professional.

3. Take Note of Your Body Language

Don’t shy off eye contact during conversations. Making plenty of eye contact throughout the conversation with a smile to suit shows your level of interest.

Mirror the body language of the other person, although don’t make it too obvious. Try not to fiddle or look nervous. If you are standing, stand upright!

4. Prepare Before the Event

If you know you have a crucial meeting coming up and want to make a good impression, then you need to prepare for it. Before the event, think of some conversation starters. Perhaps you could research some of the personalities to find out their interests and hobbies.

You don’t have to pretend to be something you’re not – that would be disastrous. Instead, logically raising topics that you are confident will generate a good response.

5. Always listen actively

It’s tempting to zone out occasionally, but you’ll benefit more if you pay attention. The other person in the conversation will notice how engaged you seem.

In addition, it’s much easier to ask relevant questions and remembers details to bring up later if you’re listening actively.

You can read this: Effective Business Communication Skills And Why It Is Important

6. Greet People Appropriately

How about a cheek kiss? perhaps a kiss on both? It is a universal conundrum. Unless you are meeting international clients, a strong handshake in business situations is a good idea. Allow the other person to initiate contact if you are unsure, and then react properly.

7. Show enthusiasm

Business small talk might not always be the most stress-free activity. However, if you go into it with excitement, you can actually have fun.

See small talks as opportunities to learn more about other people. You never know whom you’ll meet or what they’ll have to share — so embrace the chance it’ll be an amazing discussion.

8. Remember Names

It’s easy to miss someone’s name during an introduction, especially if you are nervous. Don’t beat yourself up.

To do better next time, if there are name tags, you can look at them to see the person’s role and the company statement. If they’re not used, try to say someone’s name a couple of times in the conversation shortly after you have been introduced, to help remember it.

If someone has an unfamiliar name that you think you might have misheard, don’t brush past it – check that you heard it correctly.

9. Enjoy the moments of silence

Not all silences are bad; sometimes pauses in conversation just indicate that a person is considering what to say next or is thinking about what you have told them.

Talking for the sake of it will not make any sense unless the silences are obviously prolonged, then try to change the topic of conversation or ask some questions.

10. Ending the Conversation

If the conversation is naturally winding up and you are running out of topics, then wrap it up. It is perfectly acceptable to network with multiple people over the course of a night, and most people will understand your moving on.

Remember never to make someone feel like they are bland, or that you have more important things to do elsewhere.

Why Are Small Talk Skills Important?

Knowing how to have a business small talk allows people to communicate in a friendly way without inadvertently offending anyone or getting too personal.

Strong small-talk abilities can facilitate networking, the development of fruitful business connections, and the opening of new employment chances.

Do’s and Don’ts During Small Talks

Many businesses and people have clear guidelines about subject matter that is not deemed appropriate or advisable for discussion in a small business talk.

Nonetheless, I know it can be difficult to know what topics should be avoided, and there are many other unwritten rules of business communication.

If you are having a small talk with an intention to sell a product or service, do not start a conversation with the hard sell.

You will be more likely to form a positive relationship if you take the time to find out about the person, before getting down to business.

To help you feel confident and prepared, here is a list of business small talk ideas and those that should be avoided.

Do Talk About

1. The weather

It’s a cliche, but people are generally happy to discuss the weather, even if it can be tedious. It’s also absolutely non-offensive, allowing everyone to contribute. It’s best to start with a question because it naturally initiates a dialogue.

2. Work

You could start by discussing your work-life and how long you’ve worked in your current position or even how you were able to secure the job.

Always show an interest in the other person, ask relevant questions rather than talking about yourself, and don’t start with a business request or a hard sell.

3. Travel

People will always seize the moment to talk about their vacation plans, where they have been, and where they are planning to go. Show interest and be sure of a flowing conversation.

4. Celebrity trivia

Reference to the latest trending ‘gists’ is a good way to start talking to people. These topics of conversation are sometimes referred to as ‘water-cooler topics’ since they are what people tend to talk about in the office while congregating around the water cooler.

5. Nearby restaurants

Food is a safe topic of conversation. Asking for recommendations for nearby restaurants, bars or street food is a great way to get talking.

6. The location or the venue

You can discuss your surroundings. Are you in a beautiful hotel, home, or conference area? Is the town noteworthy? Did you recently visit somewhere cool nearby?

7. Local news

To start up conversations around local news, you have to be aware of what’s going on in your local neighborhood – social media community groups are a great way of staying informed. If you are in the know, you can then try things like, “What do you think about the schools closing because of the snow?” or “Did you hear about the new out-of-town development?”

An advantage of this particular business small talk idea is that it makes you seem well-informed and engaged in local matters.

8. Something that just happened

A recent occurrence is always a good conversation starter, such as a talk you both recently attended. Remember to listen more than you speak.

Don’ts in small talk conversations

1. Money or anything financial

Talking about salaries, bonuses, or anything financial should be avoided in business small talk. A possible exception to the rule is property – in some gatherings, people are happy to discuss the property market and how much they paid for their recent house.

2. Politics

This can be an exceptionally divisive topic, so it’s best to steer clear or you run a high risk of upsetting or alienating at least one person in the room.

3. Religion

A lot of people prefer to keep their religious life personal for reasons best known to them.

4. Sex

Talking about sex in a business small talk is most inappropriate for what it’s worth – I’m sure you don’t want to find yourself being ignored.

5. Life and death

Any recent bereavements, health concerns, or chronic difficulties, no matter how prominent in your mind, are not good small business topics. When you’re in the company of strangers, avoid talking about anything that could be upsetting.

6. Appearance and/or age

Never make a personal remark regarding another person’s appearance. Even if you think you’re complimenting them, it could make them uncomfortable, since the goal of great business small talk is to create a calm environment. Don’t inquire about anyone’s age, either; this might be a touchy subject.

7. Personal comments

Lastly, don’t badmouth others, especially in a business context. It can make you look untrustworthy, and could damage prospective relationships down the line.

You can check this: 10 Tips for Having a Successful Business Trip

Business Small Talks Ideas

Here’s a list of possible business small talk ideas for different categories of people with specific questions attached to each.

For prospects:

  • “What’s the most exciting thing about your business?”
  • “What’s the most exciting thing about your product?”
  • “What’s the most exciting thing about your team?”
  • “What’s the most exciting thing about your industry?”
  • “What’s the most significant change at your company in the past six months?”
  • “If you could go back one year in time, what would you do differently?”
  • “I’m curious to know your story.”
  • “Tell me about your highlights at [company name].”
  • “Tell me about your lowlights at [company name].”
  • “What’s your biggest priority right now?”
  • “What’s your lowest priority?”
  • “What is your boss fixated on right now?”
  • “What’s your number one most important metric?”
  • “What can I do to help you achieve [X goal]?”

For customers:

  • “How are things going?”
  • “What’s your progress on [X goal]?”
  • “How has business changed since we talked last?”
  • “What are you worried about?”
  • “What are you happy about?”
  • “Which industry events are you planning on attending?”
  • “How are your efforts in [related business area]?”
  • “How’s life in [city]?”
  • “What can I do to make you even more successful?”

For professional acquaintances:

  • “What’s your industry like right now?”
  • “Do you need any introductions?”
  • “As an expert in [field], I’d love to hear your thoughts on [event, announcement, major change].”
  • “Tell me about your latest work win.”
  • “We’ve discussed your role before, but it’s probably evolved since then.”
  • “Which blogs are you reading to stay informed on [topic]?”
  • “You’re still one of the only people I know who [did X, achieved Y].”

Small Talk Mistakes We Often Make

There are certain mistakes we often tend to make in business small talks; most of which don’t add meaningfully. Here’s a list of common small talk mistakes we usually make and how to avoid them.

1. Not Trying to Connect

Don’t look at the floor, look over their shoulder, or look at your phone when talking to someone. Be present. Please give them all your attention.

The initial conversation is how relationships begin and grow. Look for ways to make a genuine connection and give it some effort.

2. Talking About Controversial Topics

Don’t talk about controversial topics like sex, politics, and religion. These topics are better left personal. Don’t broach them when you are small talking.

3. Interrupting

Resist that sizzling urge to interrupt. Timing is everything when it comes to conversations. Wait for a pause in the conversation before you ask a question, make a statement, or tell a story.

Everyone wants to talk, but no one wants to listen. People are eagerly waiting for you to listen to them and not be interrupted. Just by actively listening, you will be better at business small talk.

4. Communicating Negatively Non-Verbally

Although it may seem like you are not talking too much during the small conversation, your body language is actually expressing a lot.

In comparison to verbal communication, nonverbal communication is more common. Body language offers clues about how to read others and how they read you.

Ensure that your body language conveys a favorable message. Your facial expressions and gestures have to be encouraging.

5. Talking Too Much About Yourself

We enjoy prattling on about ourselves. As a child, the habit is formed, and as adults, it comes naturally. People like balanced conversations, though, in which each participant speaks for around half the time.

You should just listen to people when they are speaking instead of thinking about what you will say next. Pose follow-up queries to them. Consider yourself in their position. Stop feeling the need to “show off” in front of the others.

These pointers, conversation starters, and questions can help you make the most of small talk, whether you enjoy it or wish you never had to. Wishing you luck in your endeavors.

Benefits of Business Small Talk

That moment we refer to as small talk genuinely has the capacity to birth big benefits. Some of the great benefits of business small talk are:

1. It helps to create a lasting impression

Small talks provide individuals with a lot of knowledge in a short amount of time. It also aids them in assessing the environment. Using such conversations, you can investigate your territory and sort out all the details, such as other people’s sensitivities or humor. As a result, they assist you in leaving a lasting impression on the other individual.

2. It can be beneficial to your career

There are possibilities that the man who you are avoiding talking to, is an expert in your field and can help you get a better job.

Chatting with him on a common topic can help you present your aspirations to him and what you wish to accomplish in your life.

This goes a long way in building a connection with someone who can help you gain more success in your preferred field.

3. You get new ideas

Conversing with strangers or acquaintances helps to generate new ideas and concepts. It’s wonderful for generating fresh ideas, therefore it’s ideal for modern focus groups.

When you’re talking to a stranger, you’re constantly coming up with fresh methods to impress him, or solve his problem, or do something similar.

4. It makes you pay attention

Having a small business talk with a stranger forces you to keep your smartphone on the side for some time and at least attend to the person interested in talking to you.

It forces you to listen for a change, and hence, you unplug your smartphone and participate in the active communication process, thereby speaking with a real person in front of you.

5. It may help to build lasting relationships:

It is possible that your relationship with your close friend even started a small talk. After all, every friendship requires a beginning.

You may, therefore, chat with someone new and you can make yourself a new friend. Ideally, good small talk can help you gain more than one relationship that lasts for a lifetime.

6. It leaves you happy

It might sound a little weird, but business small talk can actually make you happy. When you talk to strangers with smiling faces and soothing gestures, then it provides your entire body with positivity and hence makes you feel happy.

There are also a few instances when such talks can even make you develop a strong bond or a business connection that goes on to last for a long while.

7. It builds spontaneity

It helps us build muscles to overcome social discomfort and improve spontaneity. Small talks help you get out of your own shell and build excitement and see opportunities in every conversation.

Also, you can check this: How To Improve Communication Skills In The Workplace | Tips That Work

FAQs On Business Small Talk

How do you master small talk?

You can master the art of small talk by sticking to the following:
Inform yourself daily.
Put a question mark on it.
Look for anomalies.
Express genuine interest.
Ask questions that create emotion.
Get comfortable with pauses.
Make it a habit.

What is the advantage of business small talk?

Business small talks help to create a lasting impression: Small talks provide people with lots of information in a very small time.

How can small talk help in your future business?

Successful small talk can make a positive impression and also play a role in developing relationships which can turn out to be helpful in the long run.

Can I use open-ended questions in business small talk?

Of course, you can. Open-ended questions invite the respondent to divulge information and keep the conversation flowing.

Conclusion

Business small talk might appear to be insignificant and unimportant, but it’s actually vital across all types of industries, businesses, and networks. It helps to form a social cohesion that makes interaction possible and builds trust for future business transactions.

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