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Can you help me with small talk?

Clients often tell me that meetings and presentations can be less intimidating than the prospect of making small talk during the coffee break or at lunch.

So we prepare the vocabulary and expressions for common topics using mind maps and then we practise small talk.

Possible conversation openers include:

  • "Is this your first visit to Sydney?"
  • "Have you had a chance to use the hotel swimming pool yet?"
  • "Are you following the Rugby World Cup at the moment?"
  • "Do you have any holidays coming up?"
  • "I saw in the news that you may be changing the flag."

When starting conversations by stating the obvious – "Lovely day, isn't it?" or "Wasn't that a terrible accident yesterday?" ­– remember that intonation goes down as this is not a real question. And the response – "Yes, great, isn't it?" or "Yes, it was." – has the same downward pattern.

Less common topics, such as family, health or politics, may be appropriate depending on the context and your relationship.

Ask open-ended questions beginning with wherewhenwhyhow and how long to keep the conversation going. A yes/no answer can't be given to these questions. Encourage the conversation by giving feedback – "I see" or "Oh that's unusual" or "uh huh" ­– and try to expand your responses by adding more information.

If you want to transition to business talk, you can use phrases like:

  • "There's something I wanted to ask you"
  • "I was wondering about …"
  • "Has there been any progress on …"

Finally, end conversations by waiting for a natural lull and using sowell or anyway to indicate the chat's drawing to a close:

  • "Well, I'd better go get ready for my talk."
  • "Anyway, I'd better go catch up with …"
  • "Well, it's been good talking to you."
  • "So I'll see you back inside."
  • "See you later/around."

Training both the formal work side as well as the informal social side of Business English is vital. For more help email me to find out about my coaching services.

© Christina Wielgolawski