In the Chamber | Ditch the small talk | Nicky McMillan

JANE meets Miranda at a corporate function. Establishing rapport and dialogue with distractions and noise is going to be tough. Jane tries a variety of techniques with some success. She then asks: “What personal passion project are you working on lately?” Miranda’s eyes light up and she enthusiastically shares her passion to instil leadership skills in girls.

MAKE IT MEANINGFUL: Knowing how to spark a great conversation is a formidable skill.

MAKE IT MEANINGFUL: Knowing how to spark a great conversation is a formidable skill.

Jane had hit the jackpot. 

Jane had decided to turn ‘small talk’ into BIG talk by using a conversation sparker, with the intention of igniting an in-depth discussion. The hack recommended by human behaviour expert/Captivate author, Vanessa van Edwards, triggers the happy hormone dopamine as we talk about things that give us pleasure … and ourselves.

Given our mind wanders 47 per cent of the time and we have about 50,000 thoughts a day, the aim is to cut through all the distraction with an interesting and memorable conversation.

Here are a few things to try next time you’re at a function:

Before – in the car park or toilet cubicle (seriously):

Breathe – Oxygenating the brain will make you feel calmer and focused.

Power pose – Yep, like Superman or Wonder Woman … for two minutes. It lowers the stress hormone, cortisol, and raises testosterone, boosting confidence.

Change your state – Feeling flat? Focus on a time when you were successful or happy, tune into the physiological change, and lock it in. 

As you enter the room:

Smile – It releases feel-good neurotransmitters, makes you appear attractive and approachable, and it’s contagious.

Posture – Keep it straight and upright. It makes you look and feel more confident. It also helps your breathing.  

In the room:

Handshake – Keep it vertical and firm. Ensure eye contact and maintain 60-80 per cent while talking.

Remembering their name – Say it when you meet them and conversing. Struggle to remember names? Try visualising it. If their name is Mary, link it to the nursery rhyme and imagine her with pet lambs. The more creative it is, the more likely you’ll remember it. PS: it works.

Conversation sparkers – Avoid the mundane ‘what do you do’ questions. Spark it up by asking them about passion or exciting projects or highlights of their day.

Lose it – There’s nothing more of a rapport repeller than glancing at the phone. If you’re expecting an urgent call, warn them and take it outside.

Leave a lasting impression – The last thing people see as you leave is your back and rear. Turn at the door to give a radiant smile and make that your lasting impression. 

And being an excellent conversationalist of course!

Nicky McMillan is the founder of What’s My Style Image Consulting and a member of the Albury Northside Chamber of Commerce.