There are topics that are so tired to discuss when opening a conversation that they should be retired as starters. Let me give you my list of small talk snoozers, the kinds of things that start off conversations with low energy and from which you then have to recover:

  • Weather – “Everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it.” – Mark Twain. Discussing the weather is a substitute for real conversation. You are either complaining about it or comparing it, but once that trite and over used opener has played out, you then have to move to the reason you are there. Not a very easy transition.
  • Travel – No one cares. Travel stinks – your delays, their delays, no delays – who cares? Starting off a conversation with travel digs a negative energy hole that really has little to with why the other person is there.
  • Sports – I know, a classic “go-to” for lots of sales people and small talkers. Here’s the challenge, you always have to make a hard pivot to get the conversation from the sports category to the business category. Everyone knows you are going to pivot, they just don’t know when. When it happens, it’s jarring to everyone in the discussion.
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Start off your conversation by asking the other person a question:

“I wanted to get your opinion on something I recently saw….”

If what you recently saw is relevant to the marketplace, competitors, customers, or industry, so much the better. By opening the conversation with a question, you get the other person talking, provide a compliment by asking for an opinion and give yourself a great place from which to then direct the conversation to the agenda.

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