Small talk has a reputation of being superficial but if you can master the art of making it meaningful and genuine, it could be the starting point of new relationships and the deepening of old ones, especially in a professional setting.

Effective and successful people often begin their most productive conversations with small talk. It’s an easy way to fill 25 seconds of silence which could lead to a new business partnership, or a new friendship. Striking up small talk before a meeting could help you build your confidence, learn something new, set the mood for a discussion or create a bridge to more meaningful conversation. Small talk helps you display your intelligence, wealth of experience, cultural intelligence and could you help you find areas of common interest with business acquaintances or even colleagues.

This important life skill will also help you put people at ease while you transition from there to more serious business, encourages people to be more receptive of your ideas, and reveals professional opportunities outside of business settings.

Here are some tips on how to successfully engage in small talk:

  1. Follow the news so you can be updated about trending events; this way, you would always have something to talk about.
  1. Practise speaking about random topics. Find someone who can help you by throwing topics while you attempt to talk about them for a few minutes.
  1. Create a list of topics you are comfortable talking about.
  1. Read about topics you know little or nothing about when you hear about them in the news or on social media.
  1. Avoid monopolising the conversation.
  1. Have an open mind. Go with the intention to learn something. You achieve this by being interested in what the other person is saying.
  1. Listen. People can tell when you are not paying attention to what they are saying. Listening can be the difference between a successful business meeting and a failed one.
  1. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  1. Stay away from any topic that involves politics, religion, etc. especially if you don’t know their opinions on these topics.
  1. Avoid criticising others, especially when you don’t know who you are talking to. The person you are talking about might be a close friend to the person you are speaking critically about.

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