Office of Career Services

Big tips for small talk

Every work venue and social engagement gives you the opportunity and responsibility to make small talk, but many of us find this “opportunibligation” uncomfortable. Make your schmoozing more effective and entertaining with these tips.

Whether you are searching for a job now or are comfortably employed, you will face numerous work and personal situations that require you to meet new people, make good first impressions and cultivate relationships for future contacts.  Real Simple’s Jennifer Tung suggested several tips for making “small talk” big and powerful.

Do your homework:  Before attending a function, think of two or three things to talk about in case of conversation lulls.  Read news headlines, movie and book reviews, listen to talk radio, etc.
Use a firm handshake as a safe, neutral greeting, especially in work settings.

Remember names!:  Repeat a name once or twice after hearing it.  Slow down when introducing yourself.  Make graceful introductions by announcing names and offering a piece of information about each person to facilitiate conversation.

Ask questions and be a great listener:  People like to talk about themselves.  Draw the other person out with questions about your environment (e.g. “What’s your favorite painting [at this exhibition]?” or ask about what they do professionally and recreationally.  When in doubt, discuss the setting.  Comment on music, food, or how you know the host.

Don’t forget your closing:  Before moving away from a conversation partner, close your meeting, such as by mentioning something from your discussion that meant something to you.  For example “I’ve enjoyed talking with you about your vacation, and I hope we get to talk again.  Lead in with an “I need…” phrase (e.g. “I need to catch up with my spouse/get some food/meet the speaker, etc.”)