Do you consider small talk important in virtual meetings?
Do you make time to build conversations, or is it just straight down to business?
How do you connect to people in small talk and get beyond the obvious topics?
I believe small talk is not just empty or superficial. For me it is an important conversation ritual so you can get to know people personally, you can connect and build a relationship. This is particularly important currently when so much of our virtual interactions and remote meetings are transactional and task-driven.
The key to success is in the verb. We ‘make’ small talk, we create it, we don’t ‘do’ it.
Here I explore the best ways to build meaningful conversations in small talk, especially in virtual meetings.
- First, you need to check in with how you are feeling about small talk. The opportunity in small talk is to build conversations that connect you with the team so be genuinely curious and interested. Allow the time to just chat and explore, and recognise the positive benefits for you, the team, and your relationship.
- Ask more questions and encourage others to share about themselves and what is going on for them. ‘So, tell me more about….’ can be a powerful phrase and invite more opening up.
- Active listening is incredibly important when it comes to small talk. We all notice when somebody’s attention has drifted off and they are probably thinking about what they want to say next or how to get onto their business agenda, so focus on being really present in the moment and what the other person is actually saying. You will respond more authentically & genuinely.
- On the topic of listening, aim to listen more than you speak. As the saying goes, we have two ears and one mouth for a reason, so listen twice as much as you speak.
- When answering questions, it is important to give open answers with details, rather than just replying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to questions.
- If you have quiet members of the team, encourage them into the conversation and give them the opportunity to increase their share of voice and screen time. If they are shy to speak up, or culturally they find it hard to contribute in an open forum, especially with senior people present, then explore different ways to invite their opinion, ideas or experiences on the topic. For example, there are many creative tools out there to use in virtual meetings such as polls, quizzes, word clouds, whiteboards and brainstorming apps.
- Here are some key phrases to encourage the conversation to continue: ‘That sounds great’, ‘I really like how…..’, ‘That’s interesting because….’
- Expressing surprise can invite the other person to share more details: ‘That surprises me because….’, ‘Wow! Oh really?’
- Finally, asking open-ended questions is a great way to keep the conversations going. Consider how you can ask a question which starts with who, what, where, when, how or why.
Any questions or need more help on small talk communication in your international team? Contact me to chat further about how I can help you.