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Small Talk = Success: 10 Tips

Debra Fine


Stanford University School of Business conducted a study that monitored a group of MBAs 10 years after graduation. What did they learn? That their ability to converse had a huge impact on their success and grade point averages had no bearing whatsoever. These are not traditional public speaking skills, but the way you interact with people less formally.

The ability to connect with others through small talk can lead to big things, according to Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk (Hyperion 2005).

A former engineer, Fine recalls being so ill at ease at networking events and even the 10 minute coffee break during a meeting that she would hide in the restroom. Now a motivational speaker, Fine believes the ability to develop relationships with people through small talk is an acquired skill.

Fine offers these 10 tips for starting − and ending – casual conversations.

1. The Rule of Three

2. The Power of “Hello”

3. The Name Game

4. A Common Thread

5. The Active Eye

6. The Active Ear

7. What’s News?

8. Body Language

9. Drill Down

10. Exit Strategy