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.
What is a corporate comedian? A corporate comedian is who you want when your company is looking to reward or inspire your team in an engaging, honorable and hilarious way. But what exactly is a corporate comedian? To answer that question, here are 10 factors you should expect when hiring a quality corporate comedian for your celebration or to spice up an otherwise potentially boring business meeting.
Corporate comedians are clean. The terms “corporate comedian” and “clean comedian” go hand-in-hand. It’s unbelievable how many corporate event planners have said, “Our comedian was inappropriate, dirty, and extremely offensive.” Do your homework before hiring and let your comedian know that clean humor is a number one priority. Furthermore, clearly define what clean means to you and your organization, because believe it or not, “clean” is relevant. Clarify which words are “bad” and address anything sex or bathroom related as that is almost always where clean is lost. When it comes to keeping it clean, communication is key.
Corporate comedians are funny. Duh, right? But again, do your homework and watch videos of comedians to make sure you are laughing, and more importantly that you can hear the audience laughing.
Corporate comedians are original. You don’t want a cheap knock off of Jim Gaffigan or Brian Regan. In other words you don’t want a hack. Send sample videos to several people you trust, in and out of your organization, and ask the question: is this comedian’s material original?
Corporate comedians are professional. Ask comedians for references. Contact the references and ask if the comedian was professional at the event. Was he dressed properly? Did she adapt well to long-winded speeches or problems with the sound system? Also keep in mind that the level of professionalism your potential comedian displays on the phone, in emails and with social media is the same level of professionalism you can expect on stage.
Corporate comedians are respectful. Any playful roasting of members, executives or competitors is passed by the planning committee. Respectful also means no poking fun at people with disabilities or deformations. It also means being respectful of the clock and not going way over the time allotted.
Corporate comedians are credible. Along with asking for referrals, do an exhaustive investigation of the comedian’s website. Check show description, bio, videos, corporate client list and testimonials, and blog and social media posts. Also, if you are searching for funny motivational speakers, check whether or not they have earned their CSP designation.
Corporate comedians are relevant. In other words, they customize their material. Researching your organization and your people to ensure relevancy and strong connection with the crowd comes with the territory. The biggest laughs come when the people feel like the comedian knows who they are and what they do, as well as their biggest struggles and accomplishments.
8. Power Point-less
Corporate comedians don’t need power point. That’s not to say comedians should not use power point as a rule across the board, because some use it with success. However, a true corporate comedian should be funny and professional enough to carry on a show or presentation even if she does use power point and something goes wrong.
Many corporate comedians are multi-talented. In other words, they might also bring other skills to the stage. This one is a bonus. Whether it’s magic, parody songs, juggling or ventriloquism, multi-talented comedians are versatile and inevitably peak more interest in more members of your audience. This of course depends on what you’re looking for. Maybe you do just want a straight stand up style routine, but perhaps you want the stand up but with a touch of variety that brings an audience interactive element.
Corporate comedians may be inspiring because they have learning points or motivational content. In others words, some corporate comedians double as funny keynote speakers. This one is also a bonus. Not all corporate comedians have a message, but some of the most engaging keynote speakers have a background in comedy in some capacity. Funny stories are a memorable way to hit home lessons in business such as customer service, leadership and innovation.
The bottom line: do your homework when hiring a corporate comedian. The success of your event depends highly on your willingness to research on the front end. Good luck with your event and here’s to laughing hard!
Article re-posted with permission from Devin Henderson
Welcome to The Keynote Shop. Our mission is to discover and promote cutting edge thought leaders, compelling keynote speakers, and the very best corporate entertainers our industry has to offer.
That said, we are extremely proud to present our featured speaker and social influencer for this month, Dr. Omékongo Dibinga, who will be one of the featured presenters at this week's Influence 2018, the annual conference of the National Speakers Association Conference.
Omékongo is a motivational speaker, trilingual poet, TV talk show host, rapper, and professor of cross cultural communication at American University. He refers to himself as the UPstander and he challenges his audiences to call attention to injustice, no matter how small or large, as he inspires us all to take a stand when we witness injustices.
A scholar, Dr. Dibinga has studied at Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Georgetown, Morehouse, and The Fletcher School, where he earned his M.A. in Law & Diplomacy. He earned his Ph.D. in International Education Policy at The University of Maryland (UMD) where his dissertation centered on the global hip-hop phenomenon and Jay-Z. At UMD, he also worked with the Southern Poverty Law Center’s “Teaching Diverse Students Initiative.”
He has published and produced 7 books (including G.R.O.W. Towards Your Greatness! 10 Steps to Living Your Best Life), 7-fusion music and motivational CDs, and one independent DVD. His most recent book “The UPstander’s Guide to an Outstanding Life” is a life balance book for students
Omékongo’s writings and performances have appeared in O Magazine, as well as on TV and radio including CNN, BET, and the BBC to NPR, Music Choice, and Voice of America.
I've included on of my favorite poems which was posted by Dr. Dibinga in June 2017. I hope it resonates with you as it did for me. What cause are you standing up for?
Malaika (a poem)
Originally posted by Dr. Dibinga on June 28, 2017
When you educate a girl, you save the nation
When you teach girls to lead, they become our salvation
Digging wells isn’t just about digging holes
When a community is nourished, you’ve nourished its soul
Malaika Malaika, Swahili for angel
YOU are Malaika, helping girls succeed from every angle
Creating change agents for tomorrow
By focusing on the good, not the sorrow
If each girl can wake up with a possible new beginning
She’s waking up every day with the chance of winning
Building community, one girl at a time
And day after day, we’re seeing the signs
That an investment in girls is some thing never wasted
Because day by day, new trailways are created
All our girls need is hope and a chance
Then we can get out of their way and watch them advance!
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DR. OMÉKONGO DIBINGA