Small Talk - When you don't have the gift of gab
Let’s face it. Some people have the gift of gab. They can join a conversation and talk about anything. If you lack this ability,you are missing potential opportunities to meet new people and extend networking contacts.
Small talk is really impromptu speaking – the ability to assemble one’s thoughts and speak on a subject at the spur of the moment. Here are some tips on being a better impromptu speaker.
First, be more positive about yourself. Stop saying “I am not good at speaking.” or “No one wants to hear what I have to say.” It is easy to be negative but the first step is to eliminate your own defeatist attitude.
Second, read and listen more. Television, books, the internet, the radio, work, etc. are all sources for information that can be discussed. As you hear more about things, think about what your opinion might be about it or what is interesting or anecdotal about it. Some people even keep a journal of amusing stories or interesting tidbits that can be reviewed from time to time.
Third, practice. Start trying to be mentally ready to speak without preparation. In other words, in your head, practice talks that may never be given. Think about what you would say if called upon to speak at a particular time. How would you phrase approval or rejection of an idea being put forth in a conversation? Come up with random topics and practice what you would say out loud. In my classes, I give students topics such as Kindergarten, gardening, the Oprah Winfrey show and they have to speak immediately for one minute.
Acknowledgement can be something as simple as a nod of the head or a simple “uh huh.” You aren’t necessarily agreeing with the person, you are simply indicating that you are listening. Sit or stand so that you are fully facing the other person. Lean forward slightly and watch your body language. Folded arms or hands in your pocket can be interpreted as closed-minded. Using body language and other signs to acknowledge you are listening also reminds you to pay attention and not let your mind wander.
Start talking to people you come across in your every day life that you don’t normally speak with - store cashiers, neighbors, or co-workers. If you remember information about that person, ask about it. Say “hello” first and offer your name before asking for theirs.
Finally, the best ways to enter a conversation are either with an open-ended question or to use an example. Experiences and examples are easier to talk about. It gets you into the swing of talking and will grab the attention of your audience more quickly.