On SMALL TALK – online & IRL!

Recently I read a comment about making SMALL TALK on Zoom calls. Interesting, right? Video-conferencing has become so normalized that phenomena like small talk applies. 

The SMALL TALK advice and insights below apply whether you’re communicating online or IRL.  Read on to learn:

  • What is Small Talk?
  • 5 Small Talk Tips
  • Conversation Starters & Taboo Topics
  • A Small Talk Story

Let’s do this!


 /ˈsmôl ˌtôk/  noun

  • polite conversation about unimportant or uncontroversial matters, especially as engaged in on social occasions

I disagree with one part of this SMALL TALK definition:

  • Yes, small talk is polite
  • Yes, small talk is uncontroversial (no politics!)
  • But small talk does NOT have to be unimportant!

Many of us detest small talk because it is boring.  What if we allowed ourselves to include IMPORTANT (but still polite and uncontroversial) topics as part of SMALL TALK?

  • our relationships (e.g. “how do you know the event host?”)
  • our personalities (e.g. “are you an introvert or an extravert?”)
  • our hopes and dreams!

Suddenly, SMALL TALK is much more interesting!


In the Talk About Talk  ?podcast on NETWORKING with executive recruiter Sharon Mah-Gin, we covered these 5 SMALL TALK TIPS:

1️⃣ You don’t have to do much talking.  Just ask Qs and listen!

2️⃣ Follow the  ABCDEs of Communicating with Confidence:

  • A = Ask Qs
  • B = Breathe – slow deep breaths.
  • C = act Confident.  Even if you don’t feel confident.  
  • D = no Distractions.  Focus. 
  • E – use your Ears, listen. 

3️⃣ Someday soon, we we can go to networking events again: Approach groups with an odd number of people. It’s easier to integrate into a group of 3 or 5 people, versus a group of 2 or 4. (This is my ❤️favourite new small talk hack!)

4️⃣ Attend networking events (IRL and online!) with a friend.  Brief your friend in advance regarding who you might want to meet. Your friend can bring up all of your amazing accomplishments without you sounding arrogant, right?  They can also rescue you when you need to move on to talk to someone else.

5️⃣ Challenge yourself to meet new people. Don’t take the easy way out and hang out with the people you already know.  Mingle! Sit at a different table! Count how many LinkedIn connections you can make during the event!

Small talk and networking expert Sharon Mah-Gin with & Andrea Wojnicki
Thank you, Sharon!



The Small Talk advice about asking Qs and listening is helpful, right?  But what Qs should we ask? And perhaps more importantly, what Qs should we avoid?

Fun Small Talk Qs – to get people talking:

  • Talking tech: What’s your favourite app on your phone?”
  • When you’d rather be elsewhere: “So when you are not (attending a conference or a Zoom call etc), what else do you do for fun?” (An irreverent Q to ask when everyone wishes they were somewhere else! Thanks to Talk About Talk Facebook group member “R.S.” for this one.)
  • Zoom: “I like that artwork behind you.  Do you collect paintings?” or “I recognize a few books on your bookshelf.  Have you read any books lately that you recommend?” (Questions about art or books are fine.  Questions about personal photographs are not cool.)
  • Try the 5 RAPID FIRE Qs that I ask every Talk About Talk podcast ?guest:
  1. “What are your pet peeves?”
  2. “What type of learner are you? Visual, Auditory or Kinesthetic?”
  3. Introvert or extravert?”
  4. “What’s your go-to communication medium for casual conversations? Text or email or phone or…?”
  5. “Any podcasts or email newsletters that you find yourself recommending lately?”

⛔️5 Small Talk Topics to AVOID – TABOO TOPICS:

  1. Sex
  2. Money
  3. Religion
  4. Anything too personal (family, health, your address!)
  5. Politics 
Of course! You knew that, right?
Read on… 


On November 9, 2016, my family was on a short vacation.  Our hotel hosted a party in their ballroom with big screens playing the results of the U.S. election. One of my kids dressed up as Donald J. Trump – his Halloween costume from the week before.  People thought this was hilarious. He was even interviewed on TV by a local newscaster!

A woman I met at the party started engaging with me in SMALL TALK, asking where we were from and all about my kids.  She even asked for a photo with my son. I said, “Sure! My son’s been imitating Trump and all his shenanigans since Halloween!”  She stopped dead in her tracks, a look of horror and shock on her face.  “Wait, what?!?  You guys aren’t Trump fans?”

Oopf. I crossed the line.
Politics is not fair game for

Even at an election party!!!

(Got it.)


One Last SMALL Thing

I’m collecting questions for an upcoming Talk About Talk Q&A episode.  Please please ? EMAIL me, or ? RECORD your question:

  • communication skills Qs
  • podcasting Qs
  • marketing Qs
  • personal Qs…

I ❤️ love hearing from you! 

That’s it for this week. I hope you feel better-equipped to engage in small talk. Please email me anytime with feedback, topic suggestions, or just to talk. I love hearing from you!

Have a great week! 

Talk soon,
Dr. Andrea Wojnicki
Chief Talker & Communication Coach


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