Recently, I had a conversation with a friend. He was looking to refer a fellow trade show participant to me as a potential client. This person has asked my friend, a very successful business man, how he does the trade shows so effectively. My friend told him he uses the art of small talk and finds something of interest to the other person. He explained that “by getting them talking about topics of interest to them, they become comfortable”.
That is actually a very good way to get the conversation flowing when at a networking event or otherwise… for about half of the people. The extroverts in the room usually love to participate in small talk. This is how they bond and decide if they want to continue the conversation. Most likely, if it’s a lively chat, they would agree to meet for coffee and learn more about each other’s business.
On the other hand for the introverts in the room, they are going to feel quite the opposite. If they have been trained in networking, they will respond in kind to the chit chatty questions asked and may even ask some as well. However in their minds, they could be feeling it’s a waste of time and they would like to move on to someone who will give them substance or be more interested in getting to the point rather than the weather, the traffic or the local sports team. At times when asked question, some begin to feel defensive, as if they were being interrogated. Very uncomfortable for both parties involved!
Are these extreme descriptions? Perhaps. Or, they may have a ring of truth to you. Here’s the deal, when extroverts and introverts are speaking to one another, respect is needed, otherwise they could give the other the wrong impression of themselves and potentially miss out on some great opportunities together.
Next time you are at a networking event, observe the person you are speaking with. If they are open to the small talk, proceed per your usual. If they seem to close up, look away or answer with a short tone, it could indicate an introverted personality. Saying something like “Is there someone here you are looking to meet?” or “Tell me about your business and how I can help you today?” could put them at ease and get you both speaking the same language.
With any personality style please refrain from selling or telling us everything about your product while at our networking event. Let’s establish a connection first and then set an appointment to learn more about each other’s business and how we might be able to help one another. Networking is all about relationships. Let’s start there.
Now it’s your turn. How do you feel about small talk? Is there an opening phrase you frequently use? Please leave a comment, we would love to know.
I dread small talk! I feel at a loss as to how to begin a conversation. Chances are, if we are both at the same event, there are things already in common that would be much more delightful to discuss. A speaker or theme that really peaks our interest…if it were possible to jump past the first five minutes of the conversation I would do it in a heartbeat.
Great points, Tara! I always assumed that people who didn’t enjoy small talk were just “to the point” people. I never thought their reaction would look the same as those who were introverts and uncomfortable. Thanks for the insight! It will certainly help me.
Tara Schmakel says
Thank you all for your comments Katie, Beverly and Hallie! I really appreciate your comments as well as your personal thoughts!
I had never thought about how small talk might be perceived differently by an introvert. Although I am married to one, he has never said a word…hmmmm. One thing he does do, is always prepares his small talk “topics” in advance of any networking or business event that he is attending with me so that he can be as “on topic” and efficient as possible. He usually asks what I need to get out of the event so that he can help. It has made his attendance at these events much less painful for both of us. He has a goal and I don’t have to worry about keeping him entertained.
Thanks also for the reminder that small talk isn’t selling or telling all about your product. It is simply a tool to break the ice and start a relationship.
Tara Schmakel says
What a great team you and your husband are Jill. I love the way you have found a way to make it effective and comfortable! Yes most introverts appreciate efficiency so gathering a list of topics ahead of time is a great tip. Thank you for sharing it with us all!