How Small is Your Small Talk?

How Small is Your Small Talk?


When you run a meeting, or attend one, do you jump right into business or start with a bit of “small talk”?

That was a question posed to me last week during a presentation workshop I facilitated with a group of analytics professionals.

Everyone agreed that yes, small talk matters. The real question became “so what type of small talk is meaningful and how personal do you get?”

Not all small talk is created equal

Folks in my workshop shared a few ideas:

  • Talking about the weather (personally, I am not a fan of this conversation starter. More below*). 
  • Sharing about family/kids yet recognizing that not everyone may have kids.
  • And one woman said she recently started with a story about her latest karaoke experience and how much fun she had! 

*Connecting over the weather doesn’t always create a personal connection. Unless you talk about your love of gardening and how the weather isn’t helping your tomatoes grow and ripen. Now we know something about YOU.

Small talk helps us build relationships

And relationships help us get important work done.

Small talk doesn’t have to be boring or a burden. Instead, it can be used to relax a group, break the ice or get to know people in a more human way.

It’s an opportunity to “break the ice” or disarm potential resistance by bringing a human and caring element to the interaction. So, something appropriately personal helps.

For example, in my workshops and client conversations I often ask:

  • When you were younger, what did you want to be when you grew up? And how, if at all, does that play out in your work today? (This is the first question I ask all of my podcast guests, which inevitably leads into a meaningful conversation about work.)
  • What captivates your attention when you are not working? 

You have options

So, what can you do to engage in slightly bigger small talk than normal? Below are two links and resources. 

  • The Natural Communicator. I was recently interviewed on the Hub of Success Podcast with host David Elmasian. In it we talked about networking “not to do’s” and the type of questions to ask instead of “what do you do?” Tune in here.
  • When I came home from the presentation workshop, I came across an article with questions and icebreakers to help start a meeting. Click here to read the article.

The key is to figure out what small talk strategies work for you and your group so you can stop talking about the weather and get to know people on a personal, and trustworthy, level instead.

Your turn to (small) talk to me

Small talk – love it or hate it?

What “small talk” conversations work well to create a connection, break the ice and make meetings more effective in your world?

Leave a comment and share your strategies!

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About the blog

Humor, stories, and insights, delivered 2x per month, to perform without the pressure.

Topics include mental health, work, human connection, creativity and more.


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