August 4, 2021 | Rachel Wagner If you enjoyed this, please share:The Business Meet and Greet is Back…In-Person! Finally, after over 18 months of lockdown and remote events. But. from what I’m hearing, people are struggling with how to make small talk again. I recently ventured out for two such in-person business meet and greet events. It felt wonderful! It was good to interact with others in person again. Small talk was engaging. I felt totally comfortable and at ease. But I’ve heard others confess just the opposite. They attended their first post-Covid business meet and greet. And, instead of feeling comfortable and at ease, conversely, they got knots in their stomach. It wasn’t just that they weren’t sure how close to stand or whether to offer a handshake. Singularly, the Biggest Nerve-Wrecker was How to Make Small Talk Again! Understandable. After all, until recently, we’ve been interacting only virtually with others. Our screens create a safe haven. We don’t have to necessarily “talk” to the person in the gallery view next to us. But, with the business meet and greet making a comeback, so must our small talk skills. And, the good news: they’re learned skills! And they become easier with practice. So, if your small talk skills are rusty, here’s a refresher: how to make small talk again…at those in-person business meet and greet events! Be interested in others first rather than talking about yourself too much. One of the best ways to show interest in others is to ask open-ended questions. Questions that begin with who, what, when, where, how, why. “What were your biggest adjustments working from home?” “How did it feel being back in your office again?” “Where would you like to travel to once things settle down a bit more? What trips are on your bucket list?” Be an active listener. Once you ask an open-ended question, focus on really listening. Then respond with an appropriate comment and ask a related open-ended question. That’s how to keep the conversation going. Compliment something about the person or the venue. “That’s a great watch you’re wearing.” The person responds courteously with “Thank you” and then perhaps goes on to say they got it while on vacation in Germany, to which you respond you hope to visit Germany when international travel is safe again.“ Or say, “Wow, what a gorgeous view of the skyline from here!” And others likely will join in with a similar comment…and then say how they’ve missed being at venues like this, and on and on the conversation goes. You get the idea! “Tell me a little about you,” is a great way to get a conversation going with someone new you were just introduced to. Then as you “actively listen” you’ll come up with an open-ended question or two that extends the conversation. And lastly… Keep the mood light; keep small talk topics as positive and upbeat as possible. Good topics include arts and entertainment, sports, family, and even the weather. To avoid making people feel uncomfortable, resist bring up topics in which others may be highly opinionated or have controversial views. Examples include politics, religion, gossip, and any type of “bad news” from the media. Talking to strangers and people you haven’t seen in months at meet and greet events doesn’t have to feel uncomfortable. If you use even one or two of the above tips, you will feel at ease making small talk again at any meet and greet event. You may also like to read How to Introduce Yourself to Others at Business Socials and Networking Events. Image sources: iStock and unSplash Rachel Wagner is a licensed business etiquette consultant, trainer, and speaker. She is the owner of the Oklahoma-based business etiquette firm Rachel Wagner Etiquette and Protocol. www.EtiquetteTrainer.com. Rachel provides onsite and LIVE virtual training presentations on a variety of business and dining etiquette topics for corporate clients around the country. As an etiquette expert, she is interviewed and quoted in a variety of local and national media outlets. These include The Washington Post, MONEY, Forbes, and many more. She is also newly credentialed as a VEP, a Virtual Event Professional, and Zoom Producer.