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Great Lectures Are Just “Small Talk” On A Bigger Scale

Posted on November 12, 2015


Last week I had the privilege of delivering the Keynote speech at the Leadership Conference for the Women of Wind Energy. I had been asked help the attendees learn how to have meaningful conversations in their every day lives.

As many of your know, we learn best what we teach. In the process of researching and assembling my talk, I struggled with the fact that I have never mastered the art of small talk. I am fairly task oriented and if I am going to talk with someone, I want to know what the purpose is for this conversation!

Have a conversation, even from the stage.

Create a daily list of things you can “give” to others and things you want to “get” from others. It helps you make connections quickly.

What I learned was that the same principles that I use in helping speakers with their lectures apply to small talk:

  • Teach people something meaningful about you, what you care about and how you can be of service.
  • When someone asks “What do you do?”, don’t just say “I’m a consultant”, rather try something like “My job is to help uncover my client’s pain points and then help them find a solution they can and will actually use. Just last week I worked with someone who was at their wit’s end with an employee and we developed a performance plan with training that the employee has to do to keep her job.”
  • Take every opportunity to tell stories that connect emotion to the topic.
    • When someone says, “How are you?”, don’t just say “Fine.”. Try actually telling a story about how you are such as, “I’m really excited about a new book I read. It’s called Making Your Contacts Count and it’s helping me learn how to get over my social anxiety and actually have better conversations with people.”
  • End every meaningful conversation with an action step.
    • Instead of just ending your conversation on a whimper or a false promise, end with an action step. Try something like, “Why don’t you give me your card and I can send you the link to that book” or “If you give me your card, I’ll follow up with the name of that training program.”

My favorite lectures contain three elements: a personal connection to the speaker, a solution to a problem and an emotional journey. It turns out that small talk is no different. And by the way, both take planning and practice!

If you would like to know more about how to compose a meaningful lecture, please contact me at 619-994-0293 or visit for more information.