Small Talk

Learn new english vocabularies and idioms about a new business related topic every week. Small Talk is crucial – ausschlaggebend – for your success in business. It is light, informal conversation and is commonly used when you are talking to someone you dont know that well. Or during networking events organised by your company. The number one advice is to ask questions. Because as long as the other person is talking you dont have to say anything. But dont just ask one question and move on to the next topic. Rather, listen and ask follow-up questions. To help you we have a few golden rules that will help you make small talk at the next work event.

  1. Do a little homework – collect some information on the event and the key speakers – Hauptredner*in – or the host.
  2. Greet people appropriately – a firm handshake – fester Händedruck – is generally the safe option and a smile goes a long way
  3. Remember names – it is not a problem to repeat a name to make sure you pronounced it correctly and wont forget it immediately
  4. Dont hold back – if you are asked a question, dont just give the short answer but elaborate – weiter ausführen.
  5. Ask open-ended questions – give the other person the opportunity to talk about themselves and listen actively
  6. Make a clean get-away – end the conversation on a good note and exchange contact details

Small Talk Topics

These topics can help you to get the conversation going and might make you feel more confident.

  • your location or venue – Veranstaltungsort – talk about the hotel/ restaurant or then city your are in, have you been here before?
  • their professional interests and responsibilities – this is a tricky topic since you dont want the conversation devolving – in etw. übergehen – into a comparison of what you do. Instead ask them about their favourite part pf the job
  • their hobbies – to show interest in something the other person is passionate about helps building the relationship. And maybe you even find common interests?
  • art – you can talk about exhibitions – Ausstellungen – or museums you have visited, ask them if they have any recommendations – Empfehlungen
  • travel – a question about the last trip opens up many possibilities for a conversation
  • climate – usually the weather is not the most scintillating – schillernd – topic but everyone can say something about it. Ask them about the climate in their hometown, maybe its different from where they live now, for example.
  • taboo topics – age, religion, politics, physical appearance

How to start or end a conversation

  • “What’s the most exciting thing about your business/ product / team/ industry?”
  • “As an expert in…, I’d love to hear your thoughts on [event, announcement, major change].”
  • “What’s the most significant change at your company in the past six months?”
  • How has business changed since we talked last?”
  • “What’s your biggest priority right now?”
  • “Which industry events are you planning on attending?
  • “Would you advise your children to go into [field]?”
  • “How did you choose to work in [field]? If you could go back in time, would you make that same choice again?”
  • “This has been great — thanks for telling me about X. Do you have a card?”
  • “The next session is starting soon, so I’m going to go find my room. It was nice meeting you!”
  • “I see my [friend, coworker, client] over there and should probably go say hi. Want to exchange contact info?”
  • “Can’t wait to hear how [initiative, project, personal decision] goes! Let’s catch up at the next [work party, conference, meeting, get-together].”

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