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Small talk matters in the business arena. It’s part of good business etiquette and helps builds rapport with others. Small talk often leads to bigger things like new clients and new business. Here are five timeless tips to enhance your ability to make small talk anywhere your business takes you:

1. Keep the spotlight on others

Be genuinely interested in others. It’s about them, not you. Get the other person talking by asking open-ended questions…the who, what, when, where, how, why questions. Ask about their job. If they are new in town ask where they previously lived and worked. People will think you are fascinating if you get them to talk about themselves and their interests.

2. Be well read

Read about a variety of subjects, either online or print editions of magazines and newspapers. Current events, sports, music, culture and movies are great small talk topics to get a conversation going or to add an interesting nugget into an ongoing conversation.

3. Keep it light

Stay clear of heavy or culturally sensitive issues, as well as personal illness, money woes, marital problems, or anything negative about your boss, a coworker or your company. And, yes, it’s okay to start a conversation by talking about the weather, especially if it’s really good or really bad! “Isn’t this a gorgeous fall (spring) day?”

4. Be a good listener

Careful listening helps you be a better conversationalist because you are able to ask good questions and keep the conversation going.

5. Be you.

Conversations are all about making a connection. You don’t have to be clever, witty or quotable. Just be sincere, show empathy and be willing to listen.

The good news…making small talk is an acquired skill. The more you practice these tips, the easier it will get…and you’ll soon be a master of small talk!