Jun 26 2015

The Large Impact of Small Talk

Published by under Content,Public Speaking

If small talk at the beginning of a presentation or conversation seems like a dreamstime_m_40607260waste of time to you, you may be missing one of the most important parts of communication. You see, small talk serves a purpose beyond the sometimes-silly words we use; it sends the message that you are interested in exploring a relationship with your conversation partner or audience. It’s social rather than informational, and it’s called “phatic communication.” 

Lest you think this is a new idea, the term Phatic Communication was coined in an important essay by Bronislaw Malinowski on meaning in conversation, way back in 1923. But it may be even more important today, when building business is all about relationships. If you want to have a real conversation with someone and you DON’T include small talk, you may actually be telling the listener that something is wrong and the normal social rules have been suspended. And there goes the relationship!

Phatic communication is not just words. It’s intention, gestures and even tone of voice. The next time you plan a presentation or a conversation, be sure to ask yourself if phatic communication should be part of it. If you are not comfortable with small talk, you can find helpful hints for how to use it, please see my post, How to be an expert at conversation.

And for those rebels among you, here is a discourse on whether or not all our communication is becoming too phatic, which is why there are so many cats and dogs on Facebook.


Join me on my Facebook page (no cats), or connect on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter . I welcome any comments or questions.

© Photodeti | Dreamstime.comDogue De Bordeaux And Two Leopard Cats Photo

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May 28 2015

Lose the Grocery List

Published by under Content,Public Speaking

dreamstime_m_28443056Have you ever noticed that many people treat the first part of their presentation as if it’s merely a list of what you need on a camping trip? …and every statement is spoken with “up-speak?” This approach is attributed to Aristotle, minus the up-speak, who said, “Tell them what you will tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them.” However, he didn’t say “bore them, and bore them again, and again.”

An opening such as the one I describe is a lost opportunity and a crowd loser. People want to be drawn into your talk; they want something to look forward to. Here are three ways to capture the opening moments in front of an audience and keep them listening.

  • Intrigue. Tell them what you will tell them, but don’t tell them everything. Tell them the topic or the problem, or even the answer, but give them just a hint of your thoughts on the subject; use captivating language as carrots for what’s coming. Make them wait to hear your brilliant ideas.
  • Stay strong. Make the opening as definitive and strong as the rest. Practice closing at least every third sentence with “down-speak,” and resist the urge to follow a closed cadence with “and” or “so.”
  • Tell them a good story. Stories engage us because they remind us of our own stories (and everyone likes to talk and think about himself or herself!) Stories also create pictures in our minds, visuals that make everything more memorable.

Once you’ve got it created, practice the opening aloud several times. You play like you practice. Your brain and ear work together to create the talk you want, and they can’t do the work if you don’t practice aloud.

If you’d like to know more about giving a great talk, please see my post “What you have in common with Tina Fey,” or see my guest post on the Prezi blog, 3 Steps to a Delivery as Awesome as Your Prezi.

© Ryanking999 | Dreamstime.comBusiness Woman Filling Check List Photo

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