Best Practices Leadership

How to Make Small Talk Work For You

By Tom Decker, Chief Administration Officer

An area where individuals may lose networking opportunities is introducing themselves to people they meet in quick passing and trying to find a connection point in 60 seconds or less. In a professional setting, these short conversations can lead to establishing a network which is essential to career and personal development, as well as building relationships that could lead to company growth. When you continually practice conversing with new people, you are able to develop connections, and with the proper follow-through, maintain them as well. Getting the courage to introduce oneself takes practice, but by using these helpful tips you can develop the confidence to reach out and network, and also bolster your personal communication style.

shutterstock_633424601Practice to Overcome Fear

Introducing yourself or greeting strangers can be fear inducing. To conquer the fear, it’s important to confront it head-on and challenge yourself to practice whenever possible. The first interactions can be with peers, colleagues, friends or family. Introduce yourself, think about how to start a conversation, and determine what might capture the other individual’s attention. One way to introduce yourself is to openly discuss that you are practicing your networking skills then ask for feedback regarding the interaction.  From this feedback, slowly begin incorporating the observations from your peers to improve your communication techniques. Make a game out of it and encourage others to participate as well. Having a support system and practicing will make introducing yourself less intimidating over time. Also, put yourself in the position of the person being approached. Would you appreciate someone trying to connect with you and practice their communication skills? Would you be willing to give feedback to that individual regarding their conversation? If the answer is yes, you should have the confidence that others will appreciate your effort as well.

Think About Ways to Start a Conversation

Similar to public speaking, introductions are a way to form genuine interest with another individual. When meeting a new person, observe something about them or find a commonality. For example, a person steps on the elevator that you’ve seen before in the building, share with them the company and department you work in and ask them the same.  Ask questions about what you learn from their opening statement and show interest by actively listening and connecting with the individual using nonverbal communication such as eye contact and body posture. A majority of conversations end without providing a key element to relationship building, which is sharing names. Before the conversation ends, shake their hand and formally introduce yourself and thank them.

Nourish the Relationship and Network

If your conversation led to the exchange of contact information, be sure to jot down a note to help you remember the individual in a notebook or your cell phone. Depending on the type of interaction, consider connecting with them on LinkedIn, sending a brief message to follow up on the interaction and thanking them for helping you practice your networking skills. This allows you to start building a network of mentors and like-minded individuals that you can rely on for insight, expertise in a particular field or industry, and to help you develop your professional goals.

No matter what role you have, you are always communicating with others, whether that is with people you supervise, your peers, mentors, managers, or clients. Every interaction is an opportunity to practice your communication techniques. If you can learn ways to better carry a conversation, it’ll be much easier to introduce yourself to others and really refine how you communicate.