Why I Hate ‘Small Talk

(With many business groups getting back to in-person activities and networking events, it made sense to re-run this piece on small talk. Best wishes for successful schmoozing this month.)

I recently facilitated a workshop on Networking Best Practices. A participant asked about using small talk. After getting input from the rest of the group, I offered my view – just say ‘NO’ to small talk. It doesn’t help you that much. Go for ‘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 food is.
  • When you do start with small talk for a few minutes, then shift to more business-related 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 a great conversationalist.