Many times in our career it will be a first. It might be the first time you have to present to a client, conduct a training workshop, or teach your team members about a new product. Of course you have prepared a great workshop using prepare-present-practice-conclude as a format, but what can you do to build rapport with a group of strangers and make immediate impact? LMU student, Sarah Vogel, who took a class in Training and Development, shares how using the art of small talk can be a great way to break the ice with a group BEFORE the workshop or presentation begins. So, our tip for success in training is that when you have a training workshop or presentation, arrive early, introduce yourself, and engage folks in small talk so that when you start the workshop, you already have some friends and supporters before you begin. Here are Sarah’s thoughts about small talk and why it can be such a valuable tool.
We love our iPhones…sorry or Androids. These smart phones keep us so totally engulfed in our cyber world that we forget to look up. There have been multiple times when walking across campus people almost run into me (and vice versa) because they are just looking at their phones and walking. Whether we are in line for Starbucks, waiting for class to start, or don’t know anyone at the social gathering, we have a tendency now to take our phones out instead of getting to know the people around us. With the evolution of smart phones, it has really eliminated the need for small talk. But I want to bring small talk back. It keeps us connected to real human beings who we are around and helps us be better communicators.
Here are some tips I have tried to incorporate:
A) Like polar bears, YOU need to break the ice:
- “Hi, my name is … What’s your name?”
- “So, what brings you here today?”
B) Practice makes perfect:
- If you have one main person you want to talk to, make sure you practice on a few others before your main networking target, that way you get warmed up and are more comfortable with your environment.
C) Your body language speaks louder than words:
- Don’t cross your arms or chew gum. Have a good handshake, keep eye contact, and don’t forget to SMILE! J
D) Ask questions!
Things to ask about:
- How are you doing?
- How does the coffee/ tea/ food tastes?
- How was your drive over?
- Ask about current topics: “What do you think about …?” or “Have you heard about …?”
- Quick current event topics: My favorite Twitter accounts to follow: NYTimes Bits, TIME, Fortune, BuzzFeed, LA Times, and USA Today College.
- Example current events: Microsoft’s New Fitness Tracking Device (http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/11/02/microsofts-new-fitness-tracking-device-is-a-welcome-surprise/), the new Taylor Swift album or a Starbucks delivery in 2015 (http://fortune.com/2014/10/31/starbucks-delivery/) awesome!
- ***Just remember to stay away from politics or religion.
- Ask questions about what they do! People love talking about themselves
E) Be you!
- Don’t take the training or networking too seriously. Be yourself and have fun so just in case it doesn’t go perfectly at least you have a good attitude.
I remember one time I talked to a partner of an accounting firm about an old home renovation show we both happened to love that ended in 2006! I don’t even remember how that topic came up, but you never know where small talk can lead you!
Having that warm connect can be crucial when you are in unfamiliar territory in regard to Training and Development. Once you have established a couple connections through small talk, you can have a successful training with your new friends in the audience. So, remember when you are about to conduct a training workshop, stop looking at your phone, and practice the art of conversation.