Based on statistics, only about 12%  of the general population consider themselves extremely extroverted. This means that it is common for people to find it somewhat uncomfortable when meeting new people and making small talk.
We’re here to help. With this guide, we will step you through the general rules in making small talk, how to start, continue and end a conversation at an event like a pro.
7 Rules To Making Small Talks
Use Open Ended Questions
Close ended questions are those that elicit a ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ answer, while open ended questions require the answerer to explain their answers. For example, “Do you like to travel?” is a closed ended question, whereas “Why do you like Japan so much?” is an open ended question.
Be Genuinely Interested
People can almost tell immediately if the person talking to them are genuinely interested in them or are distracted with other things. Generally, it is good to look the person in the eye (except when you are speaking to Japanese, who do not look straight in the eyes of the person they are speaking to), pay 100% attention and continue the conversation based on something the other person has just said.
Building rapport means finding common ground to what is being communicated, for example agreeing to a point of view or sharing a similar experience. People generally like people who are similar to them. Think about the last time you liked a person you just met – was it because he/she is drastically different from you or you found many things in common with that person? Most of the time it is the latter. There are some ways you can build rapport at the unconscious level but usually we do it by finding common interests, topics, points of view or shared experiences.
Use Latching Points
Instead of giving a simple answer like, “I really enjoy fishing.” Provide latching points for the other person so that they can possibly latch on to the key points that you provided to continue the conversation.
Instead, say, “I really enjoy fishing because I enjoy the outdoors alot, I like the fact that it’s usually quiet when I fish, I get to relax and think through some stuff while I’m waiting for the fish and I also love the rush of adrenaline when I’m fighting with the fish to reel it in.
In this example, “outdoors”, “relax and think through” and “rush of adrenaline” are some latching points where the other person can possibly continue the conversation.
Put yourself in the other person’s shoes when they are telling you about their experience. Instead of judging them for what they have just told you or giving them advice.
Think about what they felt when they made the decision or took the action. Express your empathy by saying, “I can only imagine the fear that you had when you thought that the last bus was gone!”
Avoid Distractions and Interruptions
Pay 100% attention when speaking with someone. Do not keep checking the time on your watch (unless you really have to) or check for incoming messages on your phone. If you are expecting an important call or message, pre-empt the person by saying, “I apologise that I have to check my phone periodically as I am expecting a friend to message me as he is on the way here and I’m supposed to meet him downstairs when he’s here.”
How to Start a Conversation:
The good old self introduction works every time. “Hi, I’m [Your Name]. Nice to meet you!”. Obviously you’ll need to ask another question after the other person replies.
Pay a Compliment:
Compliment something about their appearance or demeanor. “Your outfit looks fantastic; where did you get it?”
Comment on Something Pleasant:
Make a positive comment about the surroundings or the event you’re both attending. “The organisers did a great job today, didn’t they?”
Find Out Why They Signed Up:
What made you attend this networking event?
If you notice someone struggling with something, offer your expertise to help them with the problem. I know of an insurance salesperson(a finance analyst graduate) who attends investment courses to get to know high networth prospects.
Some Questions to Ask to Continue a Conversation
Ask about work:
“What do you enjoy most about your work?”
“What’s the most valuable career advice you’ve received?”
“What advice will you give someone who wants to be successful in your line of work?”
“What’s the biggest challenge in your industry?”
“What is the most interesting experience you had at work?”
Ask about hobbies:
“What do you do for relaxation or hobbies outside of work?”
“Do you enjoy sports?” (Follow up with why or how)
“Do you exercise?” (Follow up with why or how)
“What is your favourite local food?” (Follow up with where)
“If there’s a new hobby you will pick up, what will it be?”
Ask about travel plans:
“The holiday seasons are coming, do you have any travel plans?”
“What type of holidays do you enjoy the most?”
“How do you usually plan for your holidays?
“What’s the perfect holiday for you?”
“Which travel destination is your favourite?”
“What’s on your bucket list?”
“What’s your dream?”
“How do you define happiness?”
“What’s the craziest thing you have done?”
“What’s the most amazing encounter that you had?”
How to End a Conversation Politely
Introduce the person to someone else and excuse yourself.
Let me introduce you to Paul, he’s a really funny person.
Thank the person and excuse yourself.
Thank you for your time, I need to go to the washroom now.
Ask for a recommendation as to who else you should talk to at the event.
Who else do you think will be interesting for me to get to know at this event?
Tell the person that you have to make an important call.
Thank you for the chat, please excuse me, I need to make an important call.
Thank the person for their time:
It was nice speaking with you, I hope to see you at a future event.
Making small talk is a skill and just like any other skills, the more we practice, the better and more comfortable we will get at doing it. Sign up for free networking events on social groups like Facebook or LinkedIn and practice what you have learnt. In no time you will feel much more comfortable speaking with strangers even as an introvert.