18 Tips to Master the Art of Small Talk

For Candidates, For Employers


Do you dread participating in small talk during networking events or company functions? Making an effort to improve your small talk skills and refining your business etiquette will assist you in climbing the ladder of success. Stop stressing and start impressing with these tips on how to make your conversations at any event a successful and pleasant experience.

1. Before the event practice in low risk situations; e.g. the line at the supermarket.

2. Do your homework and be prepared – this will help you feel more confident. Contact the event organizer and try to find out who will be attending. Identify specific individuals you would like to meet at the event.

3. When walking around the room – catch the eye of an approachable looking individual. Don’t approach a group of two people – they are probably deep in conversation – you will feel awkward and they will feel uncomfortable.

4. Display engaging body language: warm smile, eye contact, assertive handshake, and nodding when listening to someone.

5. View yourself as the host instead of a guest. A host takes the initiative in talking, introducing people, and making others feel comfortable.

6. The best connectors ask the best questions. Tune off the radio station WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), and tune in to the station WIIFT (What’s In It For Them).

7. If possible, before the event find out the interests of people you expect to meet. Do your homework around the subject; e.g. John is an avid golfer – find out some of the best golf courses, what are the current tournaments, and some interesting information about top golfers.

8. If you don’t know anything about the other person, ask simple questions such as, “How do you know the host?”

9. Ask open-ended questions that do not require yes or no answers; e.g. “What do you enjoy the most about your profession?” not “Do you enjoy being an auditor?” Open-ended questions allow the conversation to flow.

10. Once they respond to the first question, ask clarifying questions about their answer. For example:

  • “How similar / different is that to…”
  • “What brought you to …”
  • “How do you feel about …”

11. Know the latest industry news and happenings so you can ask the right questions and be viewed as up-to-date with your knowledge. For example, if you are going to a financial services type event, read the latest financial journals and be up to speed on the latest financial news.

12. Catch up on the current news to ensure you are up to date with business and current affairs.

13. Avoid conversation killers like politics, religion, and gossip.

14. Mirror and match the person’s talking pace and energy. If they are upbeat and speak fast, don’t speak slowly and have a low energy. This can aggravate your listener – the opposite is also true.

15. Be in the moment and focus on your conversation partner – don’t let your eyes wander around the room looking for someone more interesting to talk to. This will make you look disinterested and unauthentic.

16. Do not interrupt others or talk over them when they are speaking. Use phrases of encouragement like:

  • “That is interesting, I would really like to know more about…”
  • “I find that an amazing achievement, tell me a little bit more of how you…”
  • “I can understand how that can be challenging for you…”

17. Wear a conversation piece – it will spark people’s attention and allow for small talk to begin; e.g. an interesting tie or a unique necklace.

18. Try to end the conversation with a compliment: “You have such a positive attitude – it’s contagious.”

This article was originally published by HaydeeAntezana.com. Reprinted and edited with permission.

For 21 years, Haydee Antezana has been a global speaker and program facilitator. She has worked with organizations like Hyatt, Hilton, Johnson & Johnson and Bayer who want to increase their Leaders’ and Teams’ Influence & Impact. Her Power-Packed, High Energy and Engaging Programs are a fit, if your organization needs to: ✦ Elevate the Customer Experience ✦ Boost Growth and Profits ✦ Have a Competitive Advantage ✦ Inspire your Leaders and Team Members to Thrive Personally and Professionally.

For a customized solution to suit your needs click here or email ask@haydeeantezana.com

Visit www.haydeeantezana.com to see Haydee in action.


Bristol Associates, Inc. is an executive search firm with over 50 years of excellence in recruiting nationwide. Bristol specializes in recruiting for the Casino Gaming; Hotels and Resorts; Travel, Tourism, and Attractions; Facilities and Concessions; Food and Beverage Manufacturing; Restaurant; Hospital and Healthcare; and Nonprofit industries.

If you’re interested in working with Bristol Associates, click here if you’re an employer or here if you’re a candidate.

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