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.