Use Small Talk to
Master Networking

People at a Networking Event

Networking events can be daunting. Walking into a room full of strangers, you might feel pressure to deliver a powerful introduction or land a job interview on the spot.  But the key to successful networking often lies in something much simpler: small talk.

Mastering the art of casual conversation allows you to build rapport, discover shared interests, and leave a lasting impression. Here's how to use small talk to become a networking pro.

The Art of Conversation

After the initial “hello” when meeting someone, find common ground with them to keep the conversation going.  Is there a shared experience at the event?  Comment on the venue, refreshments, or the speaker’s topic.

Remember to ask open-ended questions. Instead of a simple “yes” or “no” response, ask questions that encourage elaboration.

  • What brings you to this event?
  • What are you interested in learning today?
  • What is your favorite thing about attending events like this?

As your questions are being answered, pay attention to what the other person is saying. This will require you to pause your thoughts and be present.  Make eye contact and avoid fidgeting.

Asking follow-up questions will help show your interest and build on their responses to keep the conversation flowing.  This demonstrates your attentiveness, builds rapport, and makes them comfortable in sharing more about themselves.  Being an active listener is just as important as speaking during a conversation.

Keep it Light and Positive

When you use small talk to find commonality, keep your focus there.  Steer clear of controversial topics or negativity. Look for opportunities to connect on hobbies, current events, or industry trends.

Your positivity will go a long way in making a good first impression.  Remember, your energy is contagious.  A smile and a positive attitude will make you more approachable and memorable.

Use Small Talk to Make Connections

Your objective when networking is to make connections.  As you discover shared interests, transition the conversation towards your goals and briefly mention your career aspirations or areas of expertise. This will build the bridge to the reason you are there.

Make yourself valuable, as well.  Is there someone in your network that you can connect them with?  Offer to share industry information or answer a question they have.

If all this small talk makes you nervous, try practicing in a low-pressure setting, like when waiting in line or while grabbing a coffee.  The more comfortable you are to use small talk, the easier it will be to navigate networking events.

Remember, communication is the foundation for building relationships.  Use small talk to help you transform an awkward introduction into a valuable connection.  Don't underestimate the power of a casual conversation – it can open doors to new opportunities and propel your career forward.

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