Career Advice: Small talk for a big effect

Let's talk about the art of communication. This is stuff you don't learn in a classroom.

When you go into a room filled with people you've never met before, are you nervous? Of course you are! Everybody is nervous in this situation - use it to your advantage!

While everybody else is caught up with butterflies in their stomach, think about this line, "Disarm them with a smile." If you enter a room with a confident step and a smile on your face, you immediately have the upper hand.

When initiating that first conversation, don't fret over what you are going to say - simply introduce yourself. Many people think you have to come into a conversation with some great one-liner. I disagree. I have found much success by simply walking up to somebody new, smiling and introducing myself. They'll respond, often graciously, with their name. Now you're ready to small talk.

Key fact: Never forget a person's name!

Action Plan: There are three key steps I use to remember somebody's name:

1)Repeat it in your head five times.

2)Form a mental picture of the person and put the face to the name.

3)Use the name during the conversation. Often.

A friend recently told me that he always ends a conversation with a farewell and the person's name. If you don't say the name, he says, the person will often think you already forgot it. I agree 100 percent.

Now that you have learned the person's name cold, you're ready to connect with the conversation. This is where people think it gets difficult, but it is still pretty simple. Be observant! Notice what they're wearing, holding or saying and comment on it. This will often lead to some personal facts which you can use to follow up effectively. Smile and ask questions; people love to talk about themselves.

When you are in the conversation, always be "present!" Nothing irritates me more than talking to somebody and not feeling like I have their attention. Even if you only speak to somebody for 30 seconds, let them know with your eyes that he or she is your focal point. Don't look around the room for other people to talk to; be with them and only them for that moment in time.

Now you're chatting freely with your new acquaintance about life, sports, love, happiness, whatever the topic, you're doing great. But, how do you close the deal and move on properly? First, know the purpose of the future interaction. Do you want to date this person, or just build a friendship for future business relations, fun or both?

If you're trying to get a date, simply say, "I enjoyed our conversation. Let's get together sometime. What's your number?" Too many people stress out over this - if you need something in this world, just ask! You'll be amazed by the results. The same applies for a future business relationship - just ask for the contact information so you can follow up.

Key fact: Be yourself! "Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter and those who matter don't mind." - Dr. Seuss

Joseph Norman is co-founder of a weekly E-newsletter, Notable and Newsworthy: VIP Profiles, with his friend and business partner, Ben DeGeorge. For more information, check out