The first few minutes of nearly all conference calls consist of some small talk. But between the constant beeps, awkward pauses and multiple participants talking at once, directing that initial conversation can be difficult.
While small talk can feel like a pointless exercise, these conversations are often the greatest contributing factor to building trust and better personal relationships among participants.
Here are a few tips for breaking the ice and mastering small talk in your next meeting:
1. Follow the Leader
Every meeting should have a moderator. It is this person’s job to direct the conversation or jump in where needed. The host should start the call by making introductions between all participants.
2. Be friendly, but stay professional
A survey we conducted last year found that contrary to popular belief, the weather is not always employees’ go-to conversation starter. About 61 percent of employees cited talk about company news, followed by current events or weather (53%), sports (33%) and family (29%) as their top small talk topics. While the weather is a safe option for getting meeting participants talking, don’t be afraid to get a little more personal. Inquiring about any fun weekend plans, upcoming vacations and office events can break the ice between participants.
3. Take Cues from Others
If other meeting participants are interested in further discussing a specific topic, or keeps the small talk going, then you might consider continuing the banter. However, keep in mind that you still want to rein in the conversation enough to cover the business at hand. If a meeting participant is unresponsive to a certain topic or changes the subject or tone, then do your best to redirect the conversation.
4. Direct questions to a specific person
Meeting small talk can be more difficult when there are several meeting participants. When asking questions, try to direct them to a specific person. This will help avoid participants talking over one another or awkward silences that sometimes come with blanket statements and questions.
Small talk can be an easy way to get all meeting participants energized and ready for the “real” meeting. By taking the first few minutes to build connections between participants, you set a positive tone for the rest of the meeting. Do you have any surefire small talk icebreakers that you’d like to share?
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