7 Small Talk Tips for Business Leaders

Posted 26 February 2016 | BY Sansan

So you’re the boss, but making small talk with new people still stumps you. Here’s how you can break the ice.

Imagine being at a networking event where there are plenty of people who could prove to be invaluable business contacts. You’d love to introduce yourself to them, but just don’t know how. Fret not, here are seven tips to making yourself and your company look great.

1. Be Interesting

Being prepared for conversation is the best way to avoid boring your audience. Practise a couple of witty anecdotes before the event to ensure that you will be able to entertain your audience. You don’t need to be a stand-up comedian to make people laugh, and a little laughter is the best icebreaker. It’s a good idea to have two or three short stories ready for emergencies.

2. Make a Game of It

If you find that you get distracted easily, it helps to create a fact-finding game for the occasion. Set yourself goals, advises social cause marketer Keirsten Lindholm. "Sometimes I feel like finding out about secret hobbies, favourite volunteer activities or how their industry is changing," she says, adding that trading ideas is like weaving a story together of playful banter and could actually lead to the possibility of more time with one another.

3. Be Positive

Positivity is key in any business setting – you should always start your conversation on a positive note. In Singapore, this is especially important as Singaporean business culture places a lot of focus on giving face. Always be very wary of giving any negative feedback. You should never publicly disagree with anyone – save it for a one-on-one. If you are in a position where you have to decline someone, simply say you will “keep in view” his request.

4. Leverage Your Environment

Using awareness of your surroundings is an excellent way to portray yourself as attentive and observant. Do not hesitate to compliment someone on his attire or accessories. Likewise, wear something interesting and eye-catching to encourage others to do the same. Environmental leveraging leads conversation away from the mundane and creates a subtle sense of familiarity.

5. Research Current Events

The news is a rich source of conversation. If you have a reasonable grasp of what is going on in your relevant field, you will stand out as astute and aware. It doesn’t take long to familiarise yourself with general news and the more subject matter expertise you have, the better. This could mean scouring the sports pages if you know the conference you are going to will comprise a largely male audience or checking out the latest music news if you are going to an entertainment industry seminar. Whatever the event, a bit of relevant small talk will pay dividends.

6. Make Discreet Goals

In any networking situation, you should have a rough idea of whom you want to be talking to and what your goals are. While chatting to somebody, you should discreetly be formulating plans to approach a person or group of individuals you want to engage with. However, it is imperative that at no point should you make this obvious to the person you are currently conversing with. Be subtle and exit a conversation well if you need to.

7. Stay Organised

The aim of any networking event is to make contacts and foster working relationships. If you follow these tips, hopefully you should walk out with your pockets bulging with business cards. To maximise the effectiveness of the networking session it is also vital you stay on top of all the contacts you make. Ensure that your contacts are neatly organised. Storing them alphabetically can save much time while looking for a particular business card from a huge bundle. There are various contact management services in the market that you could explore as well.

The trick to confident and effective small talk is to be confident and organised. Preparation is key: If you know you have taken the appropriate steps, your confidence will shine through.