Mastering the Art of Small Talk – Tips for Networkers

Small Talk

From an article by James Adonis for the SMH:

“For those like me who are too shy, too awkward, too bored or too incompetent to engage in small talk, here’s a selection of tips courtesy of Debra Fine from her bestseller, The Fine Art of Small Talk, published a decade ago.

Talk to a stranger: Rather than waiting to be introduced to someone, just walk up to a colleague you haven’t met and start chatting. Make an effort, too, to remember their name and to insert it occasionally into the conversation.

Arm yourself with icebreakers: A few suggestions from the author include:

  • “How did you come up with this idea?”
  • “What do you see as the coming trends in your business?”
  • “What’s the most difficult part of your job?”

She suggests a question should always be prefaced with a statement so that it doesn’t sound too full on. The first bullet point, for example, can begin with “I love your idea”, before leading to an enquiry about it.

Infiltrate a group of people: Fine recommends this can be done by standing close to them and making it obvious you’re listening. Then, and this is the important bit, be cognisant of signs they want you to join them, such as when they start “asking your opinion”. An easy one to miss, that one.

She has many other ideas, many of them useful. Ask open-ended questions (those that can’t be answered with just one word). Ask probing questions (those where you seek to hear more about a particular point). And observe what people are wearing, how they’re acting, where they’re working, and ask questions about that stuff as well.

There’s a theme here, I think. It seems to be linked to the old truism that we have two ears and one mouth for a reason.”
Read more:

Slam Dunks for Credibility Visibility

crediblityYour credibility is very important to prospective customers. Many times your actual expertise is irrelevant and your success rests on your ability to prove your credibility. Your customers must believe you have the ability to provide the desired product or service.


Assuming you do have skills or product required to do the job, the following will give you a credibility refresher.

The thesaurus uses words like” belief, credence, credit, assurance, faith, trust, truth, confidence, presumption, dependence and reliance” to define credibility. A customer considering your product or service is taking a risk and therefore must believe you can satisfy their needs before they will move forward or have an appreciation of the value your price offers.

The Basics of Visible Credibility

Physical demonstrations of credibility include maintaining an image which is credible means that your physical office/store space must be reflective of success in your chosen occupation. Tatty and worn furniture or carpet, a dated equipment, decor, dirty windows or bathrooms and an unswept entry do not inspire confidence when your prospect arrives at your business premises.

Equally, your vehicle – if you take clients in your car and your and your staff’s dress, grooming and manner are also instrumental in building credibilty in your ability to deliver. More subtle, but equally important is the display of your qualifications, diplomas, degrees and certifications in your reception or office. There is no doubt that press and magazine clippings with articles and pictures of you shown in a positive light are extremely impressive. We are well aware of  the inherit credibility given someone or something if it is in print.

Credibility Built Offline Feeds Credibility Online

With the internet has come the need to broaden your credibility footprint in cyberspace. Today, a small business without a website is not considered a really serious business. A website that looks professional, reflects your business brand effectively and stands out among your competitors is a matter of basic business survival today and can be acheived without huge expense.

The clippings you get from the magazines and newspapers can be rendered as pdf’s on your website, you can write up stories on conference you attended to keep your skills current, your own public speaking, charity and other activities. You can write or video a blog and publish it via your Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube profile.You can set up groups, webinars, discussions and guest blog for other bloggers.  You can produce and send an email newsletter to your clients and prospective clients. You can write a hard or soft copy book and sell it or give it away to qualified prospects/clients online or offline. There are a myriad of  platforms in which to build your online credibility and translate you offline credibility activities to the online world.

Check out my video on How to Maximise Your PR Pings here.


A Winning Image Harmonises With Your Customer’s World

AerialViewRockingHorseLodgeXmas2007Creating the right image to build credibility in your market is important because people will form an impression from the first meeting.  What you wear, your grooming, your vehicle, your place of work, your marketing materials and affiliations – the trappings of image, need to work for you and not against you. While you want to present success you do not want to do it to excess. If it is found out that certain things in your image arsenal were put in place simply to impress, you destroy your credibility.

What is important for a positive impression and what do you want to convey about your business? In our business the majority of customers came to our home. We used to live on a five acre block in a small 55 year old red brick spec home with the workshop in detached shedding near to the house. We were on a main road directly beside traffic lights with awkward access. The sheds were functional and the grounds tidy, but we didn’t look like Australia’s largest makers and restorers of rocking horses.

While I knew I presented a winning image of our business over the telephone and on the internet, at times I could see trepidation and disappointment in the faces, particularly of the well-to-do customers, who came drop off their restorations or pick up their finished rocking horses. I put this down to the property not matching up to their image expectations which had been effectively created through other channels.

By a little real estate serendipity  we were able to change our place of work to an impressive, 10 year old home with large colourbond shed on 10 acres with 300 metres of road frontage on a busy arterial with easy access. When people arrived at this new place of work  the image created both over the phone and on the internet as Australia’s largest makers, restorers and teachers of rocking horses matched the reality they found.

While you may not be in a position to change your place of work as we did, you need to know it has the potential to make a world of difference to your image, credibility and may in some circumstances bring in more business and publicity.

We had more attention from ad agency photographers, prop masters, TV, magazines and press in 18 months at our new location than the five years at our previous location. I did market our previous location, but it could never have received the sustained interest that this one has.

There is another subtlety in our image that I was keen to cultivate to prospective customers and class students. While I wanted to convey a successful image, I also want to convey that our classes and rocking horses were good value for money and we were down to earth, practical, approachable and not precious about what we did. These values are important to most people but especially baby boomers considering taking a three day class and spending potentially thousands of dollars with you.

I did not produce a fancy, full colour brochure to promote our classes, tours or accessories range. I printed on demand a black and white version from my laser printer on different coloured paper stock. The showroom was tidy and functional but I didn’t obsess about the dust, as it was part of the charm that we were “a working rocking horse makers”. My work is was sometimes dirty and messy and I did not fuss about my workshop clothes – racing in to change when customers arrived. We had a well maintained white Mercedes commercial van as our only vehicle which denoted quality and practicality without being excessive.

I put “image resources” into my phone manner, website, colour postcard, the class booking pack, keeping the property & vehicle well maintained and providing high quality meals and refreshments to classes and groups.

The best way to ascertain what kind of image you should cultivate is to observe your current customers and how they dress, what standard of car they drive, what accessories they sport, what hobbies they have and what clubs or groups they are members of. Build an image that harmonises with their’s without overdoing it. Your goal is to eliminate any possible negative barriers to doing business with them.