For some, making small talk is not easy. If chatting up strangers doesn't come naturally, don't be worried: It's a skill that you can master. HubSpot writer Aja Frost recently treated readers to a simple crash course on the art of making small talk, and it's all much easier than you might think. Small talk is also more important than you might think. "Like it or not, small talk is integral to your success," Frost points out. "Whether you're networking, speaking with a new prospect, or warming up a customer before upselling them or asking for a referral, you must be able to build rapport with casual conversation."
She goes on to share four strategies you can employ when faced with the task of small talk. Below are three:
Ask open-ended questions. This invites the other person to talk about him- or herself, which is something that everyone enjoys doing. Also, it takes the pressure off of you to chit chat. Another benefit of this strategy? You have the opportunity to learn from the person, who may turn out to have some valuable insights.
Put away your phone. When feeling uncomfortable, people tend to reach for their phones. This is a mistake when trying to network because, as Frost explains, "nothing will sabotage your conversational efforts more quickly. Few people will approach you if you're scrolling through your phone — and you'll send a plain message to anyone you're already talking to that you're not interested."
Be enthusiastic! You don't have to go crazy with gestures or speak animatedly, but some enthusiasm in the conversation can make it more enjoyable for everyone. Making small talk will seem less like a chore if you commit fully. Remember, there's always the chance that the discussion will be amazing.
Check out the rest of Frost's article to get even more tips, like which conversation starters are best for prospects and what topics best break the ice. The more comfortable you get with making small talk, the easier these conversations will become-and the more value you'll get from them.