Just Say ‘No’ to Small Talk

A reporter recently asked for suggestions on appropriate small talk at networking events. I surprised him by saying that small talk really didn’t work that well and to focus on Big Talk instead. The rest of my rant …

  • When you’re attending a business, professional group or networking event, talk should never be small! You’re there to meet people who can help you or who you can help, so just say no to small talk! It’s all about nothing, kinda like ‘Seinfeld’.
  • And you must value your time and theirs, so don’t waste it on trivialities. Politely and creatively start talking about the other person. Ask about the company, the location, their products or services, the story behind the name if it’s unusual or what they like most about what they do. That’s Big Talk because it’s more important to the other person than the weather, the local sports teams or how good the snacks are.
  • When you do start with small talk for a few minutes, then shift to more business-relate content, your strategy looks lame and is totally obvious. So … cut to the crash.
  • If you start first, you can quickly learn enough to determine if you want to know more. At that point, if the other person doesn’t return the professional courtesy by asking about you, don’t assume lack of interest. He or she didn’t realize it was your turn! So wait for them to breath and answer the question they didn’t ask. They won’t realize how you’ve finessed the conversation.

So, just say ‘No’ to small talk and ‘Yes’ to starting off networking conversations with Big Talk instead. See if that doesn’t engage other people better and faster and define you as an great conversationalist.