How to Polish Your Small-Talk Skills

If you want to make new friends and advance in your career, learn to connect with others through small talk.

Here are 3 simple steps for striking up conversation and making the most of networking events:

Preparation Before A Networking Event

1. Have a few topics of conversation prepared. Stay current with community and world events. Read the latest industry publications. Offer sincere compliments if you like someone’s hat or if you know that they recently won an award.

2. Rehearse answers to common questions. Practice your responses to questions that you hear all the time. Put an interesting or amusing spin on your description of where you work or your hometown.

3. Check your body language. Above all, try to relax. Appearing confident and friendly will help you have a good time and meet more people. You’ll also help those around you to feel more at ease.

Basic Communication Principles

1. Greet people. Let your greetings make a good first impression. Take the initiative to say hello and offer your name. Smile and shake hands. Repeat the other person’s name so you’ll be more likely to remember it.

2. Ask open-ended questions. Keep the dialogue flowing with open-ended questions. Ask people about their impressions and experiences.

3. Practice active listening. Give people your full attention and show your enthusiasm. Turn off your cell phone or at least put it on vibrate if you have to take urgent calls.

4. Enter group conversations. If everyone’s already engaged, you can still find opportunities to be included. When you see two people talking, check first to avoid interrupting something personal. With larger groups, discreetly wait until there’s an opening to make an appropriate comment.

5. Keep it brief. Leave people wanting more. Learn to excuse yourself tactfully by mentioning that you need to speak with someone or get something to eat. Let people know that you appreciated meeting them or hope to see them again soon.

Special Tips for Networking Events

1. Take advantage of easy icebreakers. Networking events are designed for meeting people, so seize the opportunity. It’s natural to talk about why you came and the benefits you’re hoping to achieve. Just take an equal interest in helping others with their goals.

2. Ask for information if you’re a newcomer. If it’s your first time, ask others for their guidance. Many people will be flattered to share their knowledge. Tell the workers at the registration desk that you’re new, and they may point out people on their welcoming committee or individuals in your line of business.

3. Offer assistance if you’re a veteran. If you’re already familiar with the organization, help newcomers feel at home. You may make valuable connections and you’ll create a positive environment for everybody.

4. Exchange introductions. Broaden your network by identifying people you want to meet and mutual colleagues who can help introduce you. Be ready to reciprocate when others ask for introductions. Check the registration sheet for the names and affiliations of interesting people or use business-oriented social networks like LinkedIn to get more ideas.

5. Share business cards. When you’ve had a promising conversation, use your business cards to help make a lasting connection. Offer your card and reiterate any specific reason for staying in touch. When someone gives you their card, use the back to jot down any details you need to remember.

Get comfortable with schmoozing. Improving your small talk skills will help you build your self-confidence and broaden your social and business networks.

Talk to Your Child about Starting School

Children and schoolChildren often regret going back to school after a long and wonderful Summer break. Sometimes this can be really hard for them. It is important to talk about all of the things that are important about school and the positive things that the new school year will bring. Arrange and organize the child’s things for the next school year and keep school as part of the Summer as well.

Before school starts back – start mentioning the new start up. Let your child prepare and get ready for the next steps. Let them warm up to the idea that their schedule will again change drastically. Explain the importance of rest for school.

Acknowledge a child’s emotions about returning to school. It is important to validate what they share. If they say they don’t like school and really don’t want to go back – you can say that you understand that they don’t like school and feel they don’t want to go back. Ask why – what is bothering them – what is on their mind. Get them to talk about their fears and concerns. Then you can help them overcome them.

They may be scared of distance from a parent, or a new and unknown place. Explain how proud you are of them and make a big deal of their effort to try to adapt.
Help them learn how to stay in control if they are worried about teasing. If another child has teased them – teach them to remain calm and seek help if they feel they need it. Children can be mean at times – explain that the other children are learning about behavior as well.

Listen to what your child is saying – pay attention – give eye contact – repeat back what they have said. Be interested and concerned. Be positive and comfortable talking about everything. Keep the lined of communication flowing!

Moving from school to school can also cause stress for a child. Learning the ropes and gaining new friends all over again can be so stressful. Find activities that they are good at to make sure they bolster their self esteem.