In our culture, small talk is often characterized as a way to kill time or to make conversation with someone you don’t know or may not be too fond of. But in reality, small talk is an effective way to make an impression and network in a casual environment. You never know what opportunities these conversations may reveal and all it takes is a little preparation to maximize the effectiveness of your small talk.
Tip #1: Expand upon your elevator pitch
Most people today know about the elevator pitch, the short little pitch that gets across who you are in the time it would take an elevator ride. It’s a great way to make an introduction, but small talk might carry on far longer. When you’ve got more time than an elevator ride, you might have to expand upon that elevator pitch energy.
This can be done in a number of ways, particularly by expanding on those topics covered by your elevator pitch. You can talk about what you do for a living, where you go to school, and anything you think sets you apart. The important thing is that you make an impression. You never know the influence of the person you may be talking to and a good impression could prove useful down the line.
Tip #2: Conversation is a two-way street
With all this pitching going on, it’s important to remember that a conversation involves two people. Talking all about yourself can give off a bad impression, so be careful to give the person you’re talking to a chance to speak. Ask questions, see if you can decipher who they are and let them make an impression, too. If it’s someone you’ve met before, you can reference things they’ve told you in the past. Active listening and responding to the information they share can help improve the impression you make.
Tip #3: Be careful how you say what you say
Beyond all the good things you can do to make an impression, there are some less-than-stellar things you may want to avoid, including sensitive topics. Discussing topics like politics, wages, and religion are generally frowned upon and should be avoided. It can essentially be summed up as; think before you speak. If you think it may offend someone, then perhaps it is best to avoid the subject. Offending someone can very easily ruin any chance at making a good impression and you never know how far something you say can travel or where it can end up.