The best reps learn how to relate to people in diverse settings. From boardrooms to the kitchen table, they engage others well and listen attentively, I polled some of our best communicators looking for tips on ways to improve and enliven our small talk. Most of them felt that it was a skill that you can develop and improve over time. Here are some of their best ideas, in no particular order.
- Prepare to mingle – Before you go to a public setting you need to think first about your small talk. Create a mental check list so you can fall back on ideas when you need to. One advisor uses the acronym F.O.R.D (family, occupation, recreation and dreams) to help him remember the safest subjects to ask about in almost any conversation. All of the reps also added this; stay away from politics and religion.
- Stay tuned to current events – The more you read the smarter you get. The more information and ideas you can comment on and be a part of the better. Don’t just read industry magazines. Read the newspaper. Read books.Watch a movie once in a while.
- Share with anecdotes – Stories, especially personal experiences, tend to stick with people. If you’re trying to teach someone about a concept, tell a story about how you learned about it. Keep it short and simple. Remember, lecturing people rarely engages them.
- Silence can be your friend – When asked a question, sometimes it is ok to pause, reflect, especially if you want to give a thoughtful answer. If you are searching for the right words you can do that with silence. People will listen more closely if you wait an extra few seconds to begin speaking.