By Debra Fine
The holidays are only weeks away and it’s time for corporate parties, potentially awkward social gatherings …and LOTS of small talk! Are you skilled at keeping the conversation going at holiday parties? Do you spend an abnormal amount of time hiding out in the bathroom or hanging out at the buffet table at social gatherings? Does the thought of striking up a conversation with a stranger make your stomach do flip-flops? Do you sit nervously through job interviews waiting for the other person to speak? Are you a "Nervous Ned or Nellie" when it comes to networking? If so, it's time you mastered The Fine Art of Small Talk.
When meeting new people – or even socializing with old acquaintances – starting conversations can make many people feel nervous or apprehensive. For many of us, it's difficult to enter a room and only be met with strangers. Meeting new people and engaging in conversation with them can be exhausting and overwhelming. But, it does not have to be this way. Skilled small talkers turn holiday gatherings into opportunities for success. In fact, they realize that these holiday functions are great for networking and meeting interesting people.
Whether you are at a business meet-and-greet or a client’s open house, you can use conversational skills as a tool to build new connections – all while avoiding awkward pauses and uncomfortable conversations. After all, any relationship – business or social – starts with small talk.
Mastering the art of small talk is not only essential in forming new relationships, but also in creating lasting positive impressions. Great small talkers are made, not born.
The next time you find yourself at a holiday function, try one of my top ten icebreakers:
1. “How do you know the host/hostess?”
2. “What are some of your family holiday traditions?”
3. “Bring me up to date about your family/work.”
4. “Tell me about your plans for this holiday season.…”
5. “What do you enjoy most about the holiday season? Why?”
6. “What do you have planned for the upcoming year?”
7. “What are your typical holiday festivities.…”
8. “What special gifts do you plan to give this year?”
9. “What was the best gift you ever received? Why?”
10. “How does the holiday season affect your work/industry/family?”
Once the conversation is flowing, follow these important tips to ensure further small talk success and skip out on any awkward silences:
While the holidays can be a stressful time for all of us, following just a few of these tips can remove the social gathering dread and actually help set you up for success in the coming new year. Now, get out there and make some new connections!
About Debra Fine: Debra Fine is a former engineer, turned small talk specialist. In her engineering profession she often found herself in awkward situations, not understanding the art of engaging with her peers at social gatherings. Debra has applied the same level of study to social engagement as she did to engineering, and she now travels the globe teaching others how to turn small talk into big opportunities. She is the author of The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Rapport -- And Leave a Positive Impression. Give your staff or association membership the gift of small talk! For fees and availability for Debra, email Gina Davilla at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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