August 21st, 2014
As promised last time, here are seven tips to help you make your small talk huge!
1. Fill your small talk arsenal. Get up-to-date on current news through whatever vehicle you use and then form an opinion so you can discuss it. It’s fine if you have a divergent opinion so long as you listen to others’ and remain congenial.
2. Prepare a few questions based on the time of the year.
a. Current business news
b. Unusual weather
c. College/pro basketball/football/baseball/hockey games and standings
d. Movies and TV shows/ Oscar or Emmy nominees
e. Questions and comments about the sponsoring organization
It is generally advisable to steer clear of politics and religion.
3. Practice by yourself. Talk to yourself in the mirror and watch your expressions and gestures. Are they appropriate? Do they need honing? Don’t imitate the president who raised three fingers when he was discussing two items.
4. Practice with others. Try starting conversations with family, friends, clerks, neighbors, co-workers, wait staff, people in doctors’ waiting rooms, etc. Mentally record if you get the conversation started and if it goes in the direction you want.
5. Listen better. Use your two ears (and two eyes in person) and one mouth to your advantage. Remind yourself of the proportion as you glance in a mirror at an event … in fact, every time you look in a mirror.
6. Look confident. You automatically appear to be more knowledgeable and someone others want to get to know.
a. Plant your feet.
b. Hold your head high.
c. Keep your shoulders back.
d. Put your chest out.
e. Hold your stomach in.
f. Make direct eye contact.
7. Observe and listen before joining a conversation in progress. Prepare your remarks and wait for an opening.
August 8th, 2014
The content can be current chitchat; the role small talk plays, however, is far from minor. It’s an enormously important conversation starter and often determines if you want to keep talking – hence the opportunity to build a relationship – or make a quick escape.
Because the content may seem unimportant (let’s get right to the “what do you?” and “what can you do for me”), you may think it unnecessary to prepare … and wing it. That works for the few people who can think succinctly on their feet and then articulate their thoughts fluently and effortlessly.
Gender differences in communication can also be small talk hazards. Men have three main topics in their small talk repertoire: sports, current events, business/jobs. Women have hundreds and since they disclose more about their personal lives they may run into a blank stare when they start with children and spouses.
Next week I’ll share seven tips to help you use small talk to get huge results.
July 24th, 2014
Here‘s the final summary of responses I received about texting during a workshop. Some of them raised more questions for me like “Is it really less important to communicate with those we are with than with those not physically present?”
• Pretend people are using their electronic device to take notes or tweet what a terrific presenter you are.
• Generational communication differences will continue to evolve with smartphones and electronic devices connecting people to their busy lives. This phenomenon will only become more common. (I do not believe this gives anyone a reason to be discourteous and disrespectful to the presenter. Perhaps, these people are too busy to attend workshops? Are people any busier than they were 10 years ago? Are we as vital as we think we are?
• It is a generation thing. It’s now okay to talk during a presentation or program. And let’s not get started on writing, spelling, math skills … ! (Sounds as if you may not think it is necessarily for the best.)
• It’s the people who are not paying attention who lose the most.
I chose to stop my presentation momentarily and ask the participants to please refrain from using their electronic devices during the rest of the program, which they did. One of the people sat stoically until the end. Another came up and shared how very much he enjoyed the presentation and how much he had learned.
July 20th, 2014
… more responses to my question about what you would do if someone was texting during you presentation.
• I might use a nonverbal response such as continuing to talk as I walk over to the ones doing it. I’d look down at what they’re doing without saying anything, note their reaction and then move on.
• I start with a high-energy opening that grabs attention and has lots of humor. Usually, it grabs their attention from the get-go. If I am later faced with a situation such as texting, I can jump on it, again using humor that generally gets a laugh even from the perpetrators. Nobody is likely to repeat their actions. Caveat … it has to fit naturally with your presenting style.
• I might walk over and ask if they have their phones ready for our very own selfie. I have to admit I have yet to try this approach!
• Since I speak on productivity, I have used experiences such as this to highlight that multitasking generally is not effective.
• Have you tried acknowledging their behavior by giving them a 5-minute break to check emails while sharing you would then like their full attention? This may not be feasible in a 30-45 minute program.
I’ll wrap it up in my next blog.
July 13th, 2014
Thanks to all of you who responded to my question about what you would have done as a presenter if someone was texting during your workshop. I’ll be sharing the responses in several blogs since I keep them to about a minute each for a quick, easy and helpful read.
Here we go!
• Many of us are guilty of texting almost everywhere … it’s very rude and disruptive to the speaker. I promise to be on my good behavior from now on. Let’s hope others do, too, so we can get the most out of every networking event.
• Did the facilitator remind everyone to put away their smart phones? (No. And I chose to start with an interactive exercise rather than having my first words be a “command.”)
• I would probably include this behavior in future presentations on networking with the learning objective of being present in the moment. (Good idea!)
• Very occasionally, I address this issue in the adult classroom as a university instructor. The syllabus says that phones must be muted. (Unfortunately, workshops usually don’t have syllabi. They do have facilitators or people who introduce us.)
• I’ve read about a K-12 teacher who has the pupils put their cellphones across the bottom few inches of the whiteboard (space reserved for markers and erasers) with their names above the phones.
More varied opinions next time, plus what I did.
June 24th, 2014
During a recent face-to-face networking presentation, I was surprised to see two people blatantly texting. Attendance was around 20 so it was easy to make eye contact and observe what people were doing.
My questions are:
• What would you have done as the presenter?
• Is each of us so important that we need to be available 24/7 even when it means tuning out the presenter whom, by attending her/his workshop, we have given permission to speak with us?
• Are courtesy and respect for someone who is speaking outdated, and by this question I include smaller, interactive conversations as well?
• Why do we place more emphasis on communicating with people other than those we are with?
You can respond to this blog or to me personally at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d like to hear from you so I can share your thoughts (anonymously, of course) and communicate what I did.
June 18th, 2014
“Divide and conquer” is a successful team approach to face-to-face networking when several employees from the same company or association are attending the same meeting, trade show or conference.
• Why use this approach? It’s the number one way to increase value for your time and dollar. You/your employer pay for multiple people to attend external events to build more relationships and increase your exposure … not to talk with each other. Instruct your people to sit at different tables, talk to “strangers” and save the water cooler talk for the office.
• Use the tag team approach. If two of you happen to be speaking with the same person, use the opportunity to say positive things about your cohort that s/he may not be comfortable saying. One of you can also choose to move on to speak with others since you are leaving a team member behind.
• Here’s another use. In addition to standard networking events, use this approach when numerous company employees attend the same trade show. As the owner or supervisor, review the program ahead of time and assign booths and presentations to various people. (No one person can successfully visit 500 booths or attend 15 presentations!) Then make your employees accountable at a debriefing you schedule shortly after the event. It’s amazing how much information and how many contacts your company can amass from one show.
June 5th, 2014
“Divide and conquer” is a successful team approach to face-to-face networking when your goal is “all for one and one for all.”
We used it years ago when I was in public relations for AT&T, and several of us might be attending the same dinner meeting or conference.
We might arrive together; however, we would then split up and reconvene on the way home or back in the office. We touched bases in aggregate with far more people than each of us could ever have successfully connected with solo. Plus our confabs gave us the opportunity to review networking outcomes.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll examine this method in more depth so that hopefully you, too, can benefit from it.
In the interim, if you want to brush up on your face-to-face networking skills, read Breakthrough Networking: Building Relationships That Last.