Do you often feel tongue-tied when trying to make conversation in meetings? Do you struggle to find genuine connections with fellow associates or bosses? The key to small talk is what you start with. So many women in tech are missing out on opportunities for actual connection simply from the way they initiate their conversations. In business, the standard greeting is a simple, “how are you?”; but is there something better we could be starting our dialogue with?
It’s time to stop with the cliché greetings and start having more meaningful discussions. When a person asks, “how are you?” they don’t really want to know, and the person responding doesn’t really want to tell them. Even the typical tropes of weather, traffic, and sports are overused and, quite frankly, unless they’re of actual interest to you, will get you nowhere.
Being intentional with how you use small talk can help you pivot into a more purposeful conversation in your meetings, presentations, or just overall interactions with others.
Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
For introverts like myself, small talk can be especially frightening or even feel painful. But making an effort to step out of your comfort zone will pay off in so many ways. How you initiate your small talk, whether in interviews, Zoom calls, meeting new people at work, or attending events – can make a world of difference! And it doesn’t have to be super scary either; you can start with simple steps that will ultimately lead to building stronger and longer-lasting connections!
A while back, I was at a networking event with my boyfriend where we knew absolutely no one. Not a soul! The idea of just walking up to someone and starting a conversation was extremely daunting. I noticed a group of four who clearly knew each other, so I decided to approach them and ask if they wanted me to take theirpicture. I borrowed one of their phones, snapped a few photos, and then was able to strike up a conversation easily.
This group of four turned out to be made up of two couples, and one of these couples was a CIO husband and wife team who are, to this date, two of my biggest, strongest advocates. Since then, I have used this tactic so many other times, and it always works!
A great way to connect with other professionals in tech is to approach someone with a compliment or mutual interest. It’s actually much easier than you think! I remember making a great connection after complimenting a fellow woman in tech on her beautiful dress. I went up and told her I loved her dress, and soon we were in the middle of a deep conversation. Of course, for an actual meaningful conversation to ensue, the compliment has to be genuine.
If you listened to a speaker and something they said really resonated with you, or you sat in on a panel where someone asked a great question, or someone has a nice professional look, go up to them and let them know what you think!
Be Intentional with Your Words
Before you start your conversation, take note of your surroundings. If you’re in someone else’s office, do you notice anything in particular that you could strike up a conversation about? Maybe they have a piece of artwork on the wall, and you know the artist? Being intentional with what you say, and how you say it, can make all the difference in a business meeting.
In general, most people want some way to connect with their fellow coworkers or associates. So if there is something new or exciting going on in your life, share it! You may find out other coworkers share mutual interests – maybe they also have a child around the same age as yours, or even just love the same restaurant down the street from you! All of those can be great segues into meaningful conversations, and they all stem from being intentional with what you choose to talk about.
No matter what you’re talking about, how you present yourself will ultimately make it or break it. Make sure to look at the other person when you speak and remain warm with them.
Make the Transition
Once you’ve entered a good conversation, it’s essential to know where and how to segue the discussion into the issue or topic at hand. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make the transition from small talk to business talk once you’ve got a conversation that’s really flowing. Good small talk means you’ll feel in sync with the other person and naturally should be able to find an ‘in’ to move to talk business.
Make Real Connections
Taking the first step is always going to be the hardest part. Approaching others, especially those who rank higher than you, can be incredibly intimidating. But finding a way to connect with those you work with is what will help separate you from others in your tech career. It’s one of the critical aspects to standing out and getting ahead, which I talk more in detail about in my best-selling book, The DevelopHer Playbook.
Having long-lasting relationships is what’s going to give you a long-lasting career. The best way to do that is by finding real connections with those that you work with. Take a step out of your comfort zone and give it a try. I promise you’re going to love the reward!