By: Teacher Joseph Palomares
Having good small talk topics up your sleeve won’t just help you kick off great conversations; it’ll also relieve some of the anxiety of walking into an unknown environment.
1.The location or the venue
Discuss your surroundings. Are you in a beautiful hotel, home, or conference area? Is the town noteworthy? Did you recently visit somewhere cool nearby?
A: I have heard that this resort has the deepest swimming pool in the Asian region. Have anyone share this with you?
B: Yes, my best friend mentioned this yesterday. Do you want to take a dip later?
A: I’m not a good swimmer. I guess I will just stay here and enjoy the resort vibe.
B: I love swimming, I hope you could let me teach you one day before we go back to the city.
A: Oh, how thoughtful of you Alex !
B: It was nice talking to you. See you later.
Talk about what you’ve enjoyed lately and what’s on your list. That might include the Netflix show either of you is binge-watching, the last movie each of you saw, the books you’re reading, the podcasts you’re streaming, any plays you’ve attended, and so on.
A: I heard you are an avid Netflix viewer. Do you have any recommendations for binge-watching?
B: What genre are you into ?
A: I like watching sitcoms like FRIENDS
B: For sure, you will be glued watching, the New Girl.
If you are conversing with art enthusiasts, ask them which museums they’ve gone to and would like to visit. You can also talk about their favorite artists and exhibits, recommended galleries, preferred art medium, the progress of art interest, new art trends, and their precious thoughts about these.
A: What do you think about the exhibit ?
B: The exhibit shows a juxtaposition of the real and imagined concepts of beauty among races.
A: I love how Kara Walker inserted the concept of beauty in her timely online exhibit.
B: Who’s your favorite contemporary artist?
Food is one of the best small talk topics since almost everyone loves to eat. Ask which restaurants they’d recommend and the dishes you should order. If they don’t eat out often, ask which dishes they like to make at home. Describe an upcoming scenario and get their opinion on what you should cook or bring. For example.
A: “I’m responsible for dessert for a housewarming party. 10 people are coming — two vegans, one person with a nut allergy, and another who doesn’t eat gluten. What would you suggest?”
B: You can check out the online dessert recommendation Dr. Katherine Marengo. Her desserts are vegan-friendly and most of the entrees are made of dark chocolate.
Delve into the other person’s passions. They’ll be enthusiastic to talk about what they love, and you’ll get the chance to connect with them on a deeper level.
Ask what they do in their free time, which activities they participate in outside of work (and how they became involved), what their childhood hobbies were versus now, whether they’re taking any classes, and what they’d like to try (sushi-making, novel-writing, salsa dancing, etc.).
A: What do you do on your free time ?
B: I usually play the guitar for hours. I’m actually into music.
A: That’s surprising. When did you start playing ?
B: I started at 10 and now this helps me keep my mind off the stress.
Talking about your day jobs can be tricky. You don’t want the conversation to devolve into a boring comparison of what you do — which it quickly will unless you steer toward more interesting territory.
On the other hand, work is a good small talk topic because the vast majority of people have something to say.
Instead of asking generic questions like,
“Where do you work?”“How long have you worked there?” and “Do you like it?”, use interesting, unexpected ones such as:
- “My [niece/son/grandchild] wants to become a [profession]. Do you have any advice I should pass on?”
- “What’s your favorite aspect of your job? Why did you decide to work in [X field]?”
- “Many of my clients in [X role] tell me [Y detail about job]. Has that held true in your experience?”
- “Which skill do you use the most in your work? Is that what you expected?”
- “What’s the stereotype of a [job title]? Does it hold up?”
- “Is there anything you didn’t anticipate about this role? Do you like or dislike that?”
Some people could talk about sports all day. Others would rather talk about anything but. There are a few rules of thumb for discussing sports.
First, if you’re in a group of two-plus people, make sure everyone is a sports fan. You don’t want to exclude someone from participating.
Second, while an enthusiastic conversation is fun, a heated one won’t help your networking goals whatsoever. If you or the other person starts getting riled up, change the topic.
A: Did you catch how the Knicks crashed the Spurs on the weekend playoffs?
B: I didn’t know that you are a fan. Randle was the prime man.
A: DeMar’s rebound attempts were short, so there was no way that the Spurs would get the upper hand.
B: It was such a bummer for a Spur fan like me to watch this.
Weather is the ultimate small talk topic. It’s typically not the most scintillating conversation starter, but with a little creativity, you can spark some engaging discussions.
Ask about the other person’s plans given the weather (for example:
- If it’s rainy are they going to stay at home and watch movies?
- If it’s sunny, are they going to have a BBQ, do something outdoorsy, go on a hike, eat dinner on their patio, etc.?)
You can also discuss their favorite type of climate and why they like it. This frequently turns into a discussion about their personality, which can be fun and interesting.
Get them talking about the climate in their hometown.
- Is it different from where they live now? The same?
- Which type do they enjoy more?
- If they could choose to live anywhere based solely on the weather conditions, where would it be?
Seasonal rituals and traditions are handy conversation-starters as well.
- Do they do anything special this time of year?
- Are there any places they visit, trips they take, people they see, or other activities they do?
Not everyone you speak with will be a world traveler, but asking if they’ve traveled anywhere interesting lately can open up a world of possibilities. From weekend trips an hour away to big summer vacations, or bucket list journeys — this question can get even the most reserved prospects gushing about cherished memories or exciting upcoming adventures.
Make sure you have some follow-up questions about:
- What they plan to do on their trip.
- What foods they’re most excited to try.
- What souvenirs they’re planning to bring home.
HubSpot Director of Sales Dan Tyre has a trick every rep can use. Before a call with a prospect, he Googles their town. Often, the people he’s speaking with live in towns Dan’s never visited, but with a two-minute search, he knows about their hottest new restaurant, what the weather is like currently, and which landmarks the locals love.
He uses this knowledge to wow his prospects with questions like:
- Have you made it to [Insert hot new local play here] yet?”
- “Are you staying cool over there?
- I heard it’s going to be in the ’90s this week.”
This extra step puts the prospect at ease, shows them Dan cares about what they care about and builds immediate rapport.