FAQs with Phil: What is Appropriate Small Talk at Networking Events?

Nobody likes small talk, so why do we do it? Change your networking conversations so you start off with Big Talk instead.

 

In this Mind Your Business series, FAQs With Phil, COSE’s own Phil Stella answers some of the most frequently asked questions small business owners have regarding how to communicate effectively*. 

It usually includes commentary about the weather, leads in to COVID-related topics and ends just as awkwardly as it started. At networking events, in the elevator, while you’re waiting for more attendees to jump on a Zoom meeting—we all dread it. Small talk.

For this edition of FAQs with Phil, we’re delving into the topic of small talk. I was recently asked the question, “What is appropriate small talk at networking events?” 

My answer is easy: There isn’t any! But here’s why…

Small talk really doesn’t work that well. It is trivial, repetitive, and yes, awkward. So, I suggest focusing on the Big Talk instead.

When you’re attending a business, professional group, or networking event, talk should never be small. You’re there to meet people who can help you or who you can help. So just say no to small talk. It’s all about nothing, kind of like Seinfeld.

One important reason why small talk needs to be a thing of the past is because our most valuable resource is time. And small talk is a waste of it. 

You must value your time and theirs, so don’t waste it on trivialities. Instead, politely and creatively start talking about the other person. Ask about the company, the location, their products or services. Inquire about the story behind the name of their company if it’s unusual or ask what they like most about what they do.

You’ll be striking up a conversation in a more natural, effective way, while still learning about the business and the person you are meeting.

That’s Big Talk because it’s more important to the other person than the local sports team, how good the snacks are, and—most of all—the weather.

When people start with small talk for a few minutes and then shift to more business-related content, their strategy looks lame and is totally obvious. So, cut to the crash.

If you start the conversation first, you can quickly learn enough to determine if you want to know more. At that point, if the other person doesn’t return the professional courtesy by asking about you, don’t assume it’s due to a lack of interest. He or she probably just doesn’t realize it’s your turn. So, wait for them to breath and answer the question they didn’t ask. They won’t realize how you’ve finessed the conversation. 

So, just say “No” to small talk and “Yes” to starting off networking conversations with Big Talk instead. See if that doesn’t engage other people better and faster, and define you as a great conversationalist.

Phil Stella runs Effective Training & Communication, www.communicate-confidently.com, 440 449-0356, and empowers business leaders to reduce the pain with workplace communication. A popular trainer and executive coach on writing, communication styles and sales presentations, he is also on the Cleveland faculty of the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses program.


*If you have a question for Phil, please send him an email at Phil@communicate-confidently.com

Share
  • Email
  • Next up: MYB Year in Review: 2019

    MYB Year in Review: 2019

    As we end one decade and start another, we’re taking a look back at ten of our favorite articles from 2019. Which ones make your list?

    In 2019 we explored topics including cybersecurity, using video to market your business, establishing an effective social media presence and so much more. Here is a recap of some of those standout articles.

    Hiring Contract Remote Workers Can Benefit a Small Business if Done Right

    Not having the responsibility to pay for health care and saving on office space are just two of the reasons many businesses are using contract remote workers. Read these other benefits to hiring contractors and how you can have a successful experience for all parties.

    The Benefits and Cost of an Employee Wellness Program

    From reduced health care costs to increased employee morale, there are many benefits of a workplace wellness program. Discover the details behind employee wellness programs: the costs associated, the benefits and examples of the limitless possibilities for these programs.

    9 Ways to Remove Risk from Your Social Media Policy

    Social media is a powerful marketing tool, but it can also open your business up to a lot of risks. Having a strong and clearly worded social media policy can help you mitigate these risks, however. Here are nine things to keep in mind as you put your company's policy together.

    Check Your Fiscal Fitness

    How fiscally fit are you? You should probably already know the answer to this question but most business owners do not. Answer these 10 money questions and find out.

    Don't Act Like a Sell Out When You're Selling

    There are going to be times as a sales person when you'll have to modify your behavior to land a sale. Here's how to make sure you don't modify the integrity of your business and your self-esteem in the process.

    5 Cybersecurity Tips You Should Put in Place Right Now

    On average, a data breach costs the impacted business $3.6 million. And the cost-per-compromised-record is an average $141. If only the companies hit by these data attacks had taken a look at these cybersecurity tips.

    Don't Be a Networking 'Slug'

    Networking receptions can be a powerful way to generate new business for your company. It's a shame, though, how many people create negative first impressions during these events and end up driving business away. Don't be one of these networking slugs: Follow this advice instead!

    5 Ways to End Workplace Dishonesty

    There's a lot to understand when it comes to workplace dishonesty, including the reasons behind it and the different forms it can take on. And most importantly, we're bringing you ways to prevent dishonesty from happening at work in the first place. So click here—because, honestly, you can't afford to miss this one.

    Making Relationships Work

    Before you enter into a new business relationship, it's imperative you really know your new partner. Here is the basic information you need to know, and the proof you need to see, in order to ensure your partnerships work for you.

    10 Benefits of Using Subscription-based IT Services for Your Business

    From ease of scalability to cost streamlining, more companies are looking to subscription-based IT services to help with their technology needs. Take a closer look at other reasons why companies are making the switch.

     

    What was your favorite Mind Your Business article from 2019? Let us know on Twitter!

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: Help Our Community Be Counted: 2020 Census needs your voice

    Help Our Community Be Counted: 2020 Census needs your voice

    As of August 24, Cuyahoga County’s response rate to the 2020 U. S. Census stands at only 64.6%. The County’s response rate is lagging behind all of our neighboring counties and behind many of our peer counties. The current rate is also lower than the 2010 Census, which was 67.1%.  

    The Census impacts federal representation and funding for things like roads and bridges, health care, education, food assistance and so much more. For every person not counted in Cuyahoga County, $1,814 is lost in federal funding for these programs. 

    • A quick tally of the numbers indicates that over 400,000 people in our County have not yet completed the Census, which equates to close to $762 million in federal funding being left on the table.  
    • Large companies use Census data to determine which markets to move into and which ones to exit.  
    • During this pandemic and subsequent economic downturn, Cuyahoga County’s Census numbers are even more important than in past counts. 

    Business owners are trusted, well-known figures in the community, and we need your voice now. We need your assistance in sharing the importance of the Census with your employees and customers. Can we count on you to employ every communication method in your toolbox for the next 30 days?
    Social media, newsletters, public meetings, signage, door-knocking and outreach events are key opportunities for you to share a personalized message with residents. To learn more about messaging and view a social media toolkit, click here.

    The 2020 Census is a marathon that has just turned into a sprint. Too much is at stake. The time to respond is now!


    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: 2020 Cuyahoga County Small Business Survey

    2020 Cuyahoga County Small Business Survey

     

    COSE has been working in partnership with Cuyahoga County, City of Cleveland, and a strong coalition of community organizations serving small businesses to learn more about the needs of small businesses in Cuyahoga County, including digital needs, financial needs, and needs specific to the COVID-19 pandemic. We invite you to share the 2020 Cuyahoga County Small Business Survey far and wide with all of your networks:

    If your organization has in-person services and can safely assist small business owners to fill out the survey electronically, we highly encourage you to do so. If you do not have a socially-distanced way to assist in electronic survey completion, please let us know as we are coordinating the distribution of a limited number of paper copies. This will require organizations to re-collect filled out paper surveys so that they can be processed and recorded.

    We are hoping to get the widest breadth of responses possible, including responses from community members who may speak a language other than English. We have partnered with Global Cleveland to provide translation services for a variety of languages. If you, your colleagues, or your clients need translation services to complete the survey, please contact Global Cleveland at www.globalcleveland.org, or by calling 216-472-3282.

    We highly encourage you to share this survey via email, newsletter, social media, and any other applicable avenues. Thank you so much and we look forward to hearing from our community!

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: Developing the Talent Pipeline at the 2020 Cleveland Internship Summit

    Developing the Talent Pipeline at the 2020 Cleveland Internship Summit

     

    Cleveland area educators and business community representatives attended the 2020 Cleveland Internship Summit last week at Tri-C’s Corporate College East Campus. Attendees heard from Keynote Speaker Jeff LeBeau, who started as an intern in 2006 at WRL Advertising and is now the company's president.

    In his presentation titled Create Opportunities for a Better Tomorrow, LeBeau said that an employer’s focus should be on building an internship that works for both parties—one that is flexible, educational, challenging, and that provides real work experience and a clear an end goal.

    “It’s about exposing people to what they aren’t comfortable with and working to improve that,” he said.

    New this year, the summit featured programing that includes a track targeting those with long-term, established programs and a track of topics for those who are seeking the foundational information of building or growing an internship program.

    For newer internship programs, sessions included Intern Recruitment with panelists from CSU, Lincoln Electric and Union Home Mortgage, as well as Diversity & Inclusion in Internships with panelists from Ernst & Young and Tucker Ellis. For established internship programs, sessions included Innovation in Internships with panelists from FedEx Custom Critical, Sherwin Williams and Baldwin Wallace, as well as Bridging the Employability Gap with panelists from Oswald Company, Swagelok and Eaton.

    The summit wrapped up with a plenary session presented by Rocket Mortgage by Quicken Loans titled Building a Talent Pipeline Through a Winternship. The company’s Winternship is a week-long immersion experience in Detroit, Michigan, for students looking to gain professional experience over their winter break. During the week, students engage with senior leaders, shadow hiring leaders, attend exclusive events and other opportunities. At the end of the week, students may receive an offer to join the company for a summer internship or full-time role after graduation. Summit attendees heard about the challenges faced with the Winternship program, how the company measures success and where they continue to see it grow.

    If you want to learn more about GCP’s talent agenda and how your company can connect, contact us at talent@gcpartnership.com.

    Share
  • Email
  • Next up: MYB Year in Review: 2020

    MYB Year in Review: 2020

    Check out a quick recap of 20 of our favorite articles on the blog from 2020.

    We are all happy to see 2020 in our rearview mirror—finally. And while we are eager to forget almost everything that happened last year, many of our Mind Your Business articles deserve a look back. 

    From dealing with COVID stress and the importance of pandemic training, to understanding digital harassment and building a positive work culture…here are 20 of our favorite stories on the blog from 2020 (in no particular order).

    1. How to Successfully Manage Teleworking During the Pandemic
    Telecommuting is the way of the world right now, and your business is probably no exception. From beefing up security to encouraging daily updates, here are nine tips to help you effectively manage a teleworking policy with your small business team.

    2. Six Tips to Dealing with COVID Stress
    As a small business owner, it probably feels a little overwhelming dealing with the stress coming at you as a result of the pandemic. Here are six tips you can follow to take care of yourself and stay healthy during these uncertain times.

    3. The Importance of Training Employees During the Pandemic 

    It might be tempting to cut corners at a time like this to save your business money. But one area where you should not skimp is on employee training. Read on about the importance of keeping your employees properly trained to handle the specific circumstances surrounding the pandemic.

    4. Make Meetings Work
    Remember back to when we talked about more than just a global pandemic? Or way back to when we used to hold in-person meetings? Whether in person or virtual, a bad meeting is unbearable. Here are guidelines to planning meetings so that they are effective, intentional, productive and…well, bearable.

    5. FAQs About FAQs: How to Effectively Handle Customer Questions
    Being responsive to your customers' questions is one of the most important parts of the job. Here are some FAQs from small business owners about the FAQs they receive, and tips on how to effectively handle them. 

    6. National Work and Family Month: 10 Tips to Improving Work and Family Balance at Your Small Business
    October was National Work and Family Month, but anytime is a good time to recognize the importance for a healthy work-life balance with your team. In the time of COVID and widespread remote working, it's important for all workers to reach an effective work-life balance. Read more to find out how.

    7. How Ya Doin'? A COVID Check-in
    If you haven't already done so, it's time to check in with your constituents, including your staff, colleagues and clients, about how they are doing during this time of crisis. Doing so can have a big impact on your constituents and your business. Here are tips to follow when it comes to approaching these COVID check-ins.

    8. Three Powerful Types of Content Marketing Effective in 2020
    Content marketing has been a trendy concept recently and can be a powerful addition to any marketing plan. But exactly why should you consider making the investment in content marketing and how do you go about using it effectively? Read on to find out three powerful types of content marketing that can be effective for your small business.

    9. Can COVID-19 Get Me Out of a Business Contract?
    Limitations in place due to the Coronavirus have left many businesses wondering what their rights are when they are prevented from meeting contractual obligations. Find out more about enforcing force majeure in the wake of COVID-19.

    10. Six Steps to Establishing Yourself as a Thought Leader in Your Industry
    Thought leaders are on the cutting-edge of their area of expertise. Take these six steps to establish yourself as an authority in your space and begin leveraging the benefits of becoming a thought leader in your industry.

    11. Should You Grow Your Local Business Blog?
    A blog is not only a useful tool for your constituents, it’s also a good way to get your business found in online search results. If you’re a business owner with a bit of free time on your hands, beefing up your blogs and boosting search engine optimization is a great use of time. Consider these seven steps for your blogging strategy.

    12. #MeToo Movement Moves to the Workplace
    Sexual harassment and retaliation are serious topics and should be treated as serious concerns for all employers. Make sure you have a full understanding of how these behaviors can have a significant impact on your business.

    13. Understanding and Complying with Basic Employee Privacy Issues in the Workplace
    Whether it's in regard to personal items, phone calls or private information, employees have certain rights to privacy in the workplace. It’s the job of business owners to understand these rights and be compliant. Check out this article on privacy issues in the workplace.

    14. Five Tips to Make Working from Home Work for You
    You’re taking on a lot of roles these days in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and one of them probably involves working from home. Here are some guidelines to navigating your new work arrangements.

    15. Five Ways Effective Communication with Customers Can Help You Maneuver a Crisis
    During a crisis, things appear to be falling apart, and insecurities about the future of your operations continue increasing. One of the things you can change at such a time is how you communicate with your clients. Here are some of the ways effective communication with customers can help you through a crisis.

    16. Building a Positive Work Culture
    Some larger companies work hard to ensure theirs is a company employees enjoy working for. But it's just as important that small businesses focus on attracting good candidates and keeping them happy. Here's how you can build a positive work culture at your small business.

    17. Understanding Digital Harassment
    Harassment does not only come in the form of face-to-face contact. With a growing number and popularity of social media sites and forms of technology, digital harassment is becoming a real problem in and out of the office. Here is what you need to know when it comes to understanding digital harassment in the workplace.

    18. Insourcing vs. Outsourcing Digital Marketing: The Pros and Cons
    Is it better to build an in-house team of marketers or to rely on the currently thriving outsource market for your business? Maybe it's both. Read on to find out the pros and cons of insourcing vs. outsourcing your digital marketing.

    19. How to Safely and Gracefully Handle Employee Terminations
    Nobody wants to do it, but occasionally terminating employees is part of the job for a small business owner. Use these five tips to help make your next termination situation go as smoothly as possible.

    20. Five Ways Podcasting Can Ramp Up Your Content Marketing Strategy
    If you don't know about podcasts or podcasting—or don't get why everyone seems to be talking about them—odds are you will soon enough. In this mid and post-COVID business environment we find ourselves in, podcasting can help businesses maintain the crucial top-of-mind visibility needed to remain viable and competitive.

    What was your favorite Mind Your Business article from 2020? Let us know on Twitter!

     
     
     
     
     
     
    Share
  • Email