How to make business small talk

business small talk,networking,conferences,meetings

Good business small talk is interesting and
helps to build solid business relationships

Although business small talk isn’t written down, it does involve the use of words which is why it’s here. And it’s not as simple a topic as you might imagine.

Small talk in social (and by that I don’t mean social media, but the earlier incarnation of the word) circumstances can be about anything from the weather to children and families to football to beer drinking.

In a business context, those topics aren’t necessarily appropriate.

Where do we use business small talk?

The most obvious places are in face-to-face business networking events and breaks during and after conferences, meetings, seminars, etc.

Here there are often “free networking” elements within the events whether it’s before breakfast over a cup of tepid coffee or after an evening meeting over a beer at the bar.

I go to a lot of F-2-F business networking events in my locality and when I meet new people, I’m interested to see how the conversation works out over the coffee or scrambled eggs (I tend not to do evening meetings!)

Here in the UK where I live most of the year, old-fashioned manners say that it’s rude to ask someone outright what they do to earn their crust. Thankfully in modern business networking that old taboo doesn’t count any more.

The badge can be the ice breaker

As you know, it’s a good idea at these events to have a badge on you saying who you are and what you do.

I have a glorious polished hematite chain on which I hang whatever badge I need to wear – I have a few different personas depending on whether I’m there for, my (voluntary) cancer survivorship group, as a volunteer for the UK’s National Health Service, or as a volunteer for a local charity – designed by me and made for me by my good friend Sarah Jane, a brilliant UK jewelry designer. The way that hematite chain adapts itself to a variety of different uses is an unusual but effective conversation starter in itself!

But of course that’s not the point: what matters is what it says on those badges and peering at someone’s badge at a networking event and asking what their role involves, is a very good starting point for a business small talk conversation.

Be interesting – and interested

It pays to use your imagination a bit here, though. Rather than just say “what’s it like to be a lawyer / accountant / rat catcher / dog masseuse,” try to take a step further into a conversation by asking something like “what’s the biggest challenge you find about the work you do?”

And then, don’t just appear  interested; you must be  interested … no flickering your eyes to either side and beyond the person you’re talking to to see who else is in the room … no checking your phone for emails. Good manners lead to useful, fruitful new business connections.

Other useful conversation starters could include:

What do you like best about networking with this group?

How well do think (NAME’S) presentation got the key points over?

I really enjoyed that talk about (WHATEVER). How did you feel about it?

I’m new to this group – do you know many people here?

I see you’re a specialist in (WHATEVER). What made you choose that specialty?

I see you’re from our (LOCATION) office. What are the main challenges the company faces there?

How do you find these networking groups differ between here and (THEIR COUNTRY)?

Do you think you’ll come to this conference again next year?

What did you think of this new product / service / incentive scheme / ?

Which part of the seminar did you find most useful?


blog,writing,news,blogging,business,Suzan St Maur,,how to write betterWhat advice can you share about making meaningful business small talk? Would love to read it!

photo credit: JodiWomack via photopin cc