Sunday, August 5, 2007

Small Talk for a BIG Effect

Small Talk for a BIG Effect

By: Joseph W. Norman

Let’s talk about the art of communication. I’m not talking about public speaking, COMN 101, or any of that jazz – I’m talking about one on one, mono y mono, conversation. This is stuff you don’t learn in a classroom…

When you go into a room filled with many people you’ve never met before, are you nervous? Of course you are! KEY FACT: Everybody is nervous in this situation - use it to your advantage!

While everybody else is caught up with butterflies in the stomach, think about a line from a song by the Smashing Pumpkin’s, “Disarm [them] with a smile.” If you enter a room with a confident step and a smile on your face, you immediately have the upper hand (no matter how nervous you are on the inside).

When initiating that first conversation, don’t fret over what you are going to say – simply introduce yourself. Many people think you have to come into a conversation with some great one liner – I disagree. I have found much success by simply walking up to somebody new with a smile and saying, “Hi, I’m Joe Norman.” They’ll respond, often graciously, with their name – now you’re ready to rock and roll. KEY FACT: Never forget a person’s name! “But Joe, how do I remember?”

ACTION PLAN: There are three key steps I use to remember somebody’s name;

1) Repeat it in your head at least three times (I recommend five).

2) Form a mental picture of the person and put the face to the name.

3) Use the name during the conversation, no matter how long or short the chat is.

NOTABLE: A friend recently told me, he always ends a conversation with a farewell and the person’s name. If you don’t say the name, he says, the person will often think you already forgot it. I agree 100%.

Now that you have learned the person’s name cold, you’re ready to connect with the conversation. This is where people think it gets difficult, but it is still pretty simple. Be observant! Notice what they’re wearing, holding, or saying and comment on it. This will often lead to some personal facts which you can use to follow up effectively. When in doubt, just ask questions – people love to talk about themselves.

When you are in the conversation, always be “present!” Nothing irritates me more than talking to somebody and not feeling like I have their attention. Even if you only speak to somebody for thirty seconds, let them know with your eyes that it is only them that you care about at that instant. Don’t look around the room for other people to talk to – be with them and only them for that moment in time.

NORMAN SIDE NOTE: Tips for talking on the phone. If somebody in the room asks you a question, excuse yourself from the phone conversation and answer the question. Do not just answer the question and let the person on the phone keep talking. The same applies for receiving a phone call while in a face to face conversation. Excuse yourself if it is urgent - otherwise let the person calling leave a message. Be respectful! My mother taught me this and it is very valuable information.

Back to the conversation – you’re chatting freely with your new acquaintance about life, sports, love, happiness, etcetera. Whatever the topic, you’re doing great. But, how do you close the deal and move on properly? First, know the purpose of the future interaction. Do you want to date this person, or just build a friendship for future business relations, fun, or both?

If you’re trying to get a date, simply say, “I enjoyed our conversation and I’d like to get together with you sometime. What’s your number?” Too many people stress out over this – if you need something in this world, just ask! You’ll be amazed by the results. Nearly the same applies for a friendship or future business relationship – just ask for the contact information so you can follow up.

NOTABLE: Try to book the future engagement at the end of the conversation. Set a date or time and write it down. If handing out a business card, write the planned get together on the back and then hand it to the person. Always put it in writing! It is too easy to forget such promises. Then, follow up.

Congratulations – you’ve just learned how to small talk for a big effect. Remember a few key points:

1) Everyone is nervous – disarm them with a SMILE

2) Be PRESENT in the conversation

3) Know your purpose (date, friendship, business, etcetera)

4) Set up the stage for future interaction (Get the contact information)

5) Have fun and follow up

KEY FACT: Be yourself! “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Suess

Keep checking back for more information on topics such as; “Follow Up or Lose Out,” “Make a POWERFUL Impression,” and more! Best, ~ JWN

NOTABLE: Joseph Norman is co-founder of a weekly e-newsletter, Notable and Newsworthy: VIP Profiles, with his friend and business partner, Ben DeGeorge. Together they have built relationships with dynamic leaders in many organizations and industries. For more information, check out:, or, email Joseph at