Advice for Students

8 Tips to Improve Your “Small Talk” Ability at Networking Events

February 06, 2013  |     |   0 Comment

Networking refers to the art of creating professional opportunities by coming in contact with like-minded men and women of various backgrounds and developing mutually beneficial relationships with them based on trust, credibility and respect.

People do business with people that they like. Networking provides us with an opportunity to start to build a rapport with another like-minded person or high-value prospect, and create the potential to continue to build that relationship long after the networking event is over.

In order to do so, it is crucial that you are able to conduct yourself with confidence and poise during a networking event to ensure that you project a professional image and always leave a great first impression.

One aspect of being able to accomplish this is mastering the art of “small talk.”  Based on research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and the Stanford Research Institute, technical skills and knowledge account for 15% of the reason you get a job, keep a job, advance in a job. 85% of your job success is connected to your people skills.

“Small talk” is an important people skill.   It is defined as “polite conversation about matters of little importance, especially between people who do not know each other well.” “Small talk” breaks the ice and puts others at ease. It establishes a connection or defines a common denominator between two people. It does not require original or profound conversation. It is simply what we say to each other to be polite.

Keeping this in mind, here are 8 tips to help you improve your “small talk” ability at any social or business networking event:

1. Be well-informed. Read a newspaper, keep up with current events locally, nationally and internationally. People like to talk about current events.

2. Focus on the other person and less on yourself. Make the person with whom you’re speaking feel like the most important person in the room.

3. Listen carefully to what the other person is saying. Never interrupt – it’s rude.

4. Don’t finish another person’s sentence – while you may think you are being helpful, you will appear impatient and take away from any value that the person with whom you’re speaking has to offer.

5. Ask questions – they are the single most powerful networking tool you have at your disposal. Every question you ask the person with whom you are speaking provides an opportunity to develop a rapport, build trust and enhance your professional image.

6. Never start a conversation with, “What do you do?”. Take the opportunity to demonstrate to the person with whom you are speaking that you are interested in learning about them – not just their business! Remember – you want to build a rapport with that person. People do business with people that they like.

7. Always close a conversation – never just walk away. Make eye-contact, smile, extend your hand and say, “It was a pleasure meeting you.”

8. If this is someone with whom you know you would like to meet again or spend more time getting to know, ask if you can follow up with him or her. Then keep your promise. Call or email the person to set up a time to have a telephone conversation or schedule a time to meet for coffee.

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