Can We Talk about Small Talk?
Macmillan Dictionary Blog

Has the art of conversation slipped away from us? The Chief Data Officer of a fintech company wants her data scientists to do a better job of telling the story behind the data. A Customer Service leader wants to develop more empathy within his team. A client shares her concern that her teenage children spend much of their time in “head-down” conversation (i.e., texting) and less time in face-to-face interactions.

While many executives excel in interpersonal communication, it is still the case that others struggle with the soft skills – networking, building relationships and collaborating with others. It turns out that small talk is a big deal. 

“Jobs requiring high levels of social interaction grew by nearly 12 percentage points as a share of the U.S. labor force between 1980 and 2012, according to a study published last year by David Deming, professor at the Harvard Kennedy School. Less-social, math-intensive jobs fell by 3.3 percentage points over the same period.” (Wall Street Journal, Wanted: Employees Who Can Shake Hands, Make Small Talk; Bank of America teaches empathy in-house; Subaru pays for soft-skills training, December 9, 2018)

It’s no wonder that heads of learning and development, at companies large and small, have turned to performance, bringing in playful and improvisational approaches to advancing communication skills, emotional intelligence/empathy, and collaboration. The essential elements of improvisation – listening and building – have become critical skills for professionals at all levels. Storytelling, performing other than who we are, and creative imitation are some of the tools from the theatre that are so valuable in corporate settings.

ImprovNetworking was designed as a professional and leadership development program to teach new ways of making small talk that are relaxed, natural, and effective. Participants don’t rely on a scripted process (the elevator pitch), instead we rely on our innate human ability to play and perform. Learning to actively listen and build with what people offer strengthens the ability to develop new social connections and deepen existing relationships. Discover what ImprovNetworking can do for your organization. 

Improv Networking
An innovative and off-script approach to networking and relationship building for professionals at all levels, customizable to meet the needs of your organization.


Ditch Your Elevator Pitch

Cartoon from The New Yorker magazine

Do you keep your distance at networking events? Do you find yourself repeating the same elevator pitch no matter who you’re talking to? Do you feel lonely in a room full of people?

ImprovNetworking is an off-script approach to relationship building that doesn’t rely on a scripted process or a formulaic solution. In fact, ImprovNetworking reignites the natural curiosity all people have about each other – the key to great networking. Participants reconnect to the innate human ability to play and improvise.

Professionals at all levels come to networking events with preconceived, often negative, associations with the notion of building and sustaining a network of relationships. By introducing performance – the ability to be who we are and who we are not (like actors do when they play a role) – networking can transform into a creative activity.

My advice to anyone tired (or afraid) of networking is to step outside of your comfort zone with ImprovNetworking. You’ll learn how to be more yourself and how to make a more lasting connection with those you meet. It doesn’t matter if you are an introvert or extrovert, ImprovNetworking will give you helpful tools to use right away. 

By pursuing curiosity about others, formulating interesting questions, and sharing our passions and motivations without following the tired and worn out scripts (the elevator pitch), we create a genuine human connection.

Being fully present with another person co-creating an improvisational conversation (“scene”), allows us to step out of our comfort zone, take some risks and get to know others in new ways. By doing so, we have a shot at impacting each other which builds memorable and lasting relationships.

Need to Engage and Retain Millennials?

As more and more companies are looking for ways to engage and retain talent, listening to the needs of millennials becomes critical.

According to a study by Deloitte of 10,455 millennials, there is a demand for skill development in the areas of interpersonal skills, confidence/motivation, innovation and creativity.

ImprovNetworking is an entirely new and off-script approach to networking and relationship building that was designed for professionals at all levels. This approach is particularly useful for millennials, who are often disengaged by traditional learning and development offerings. Half an hour into an ImprovNetworking session, participants are speaking with each other in new ways that are relaxed, natural, and effective. Participants reconnect to the innate human ability to play and improvise.

Rather than relying on a scripted process or a formulaic solution, ImprovNetworking reignites the natural curiosity all people have about each other – the key to great networking. By engaging in a more playful approach to relationship-building younger professionals have the chance to perform confidently, to develop their creative capacity and spontaneity. They learn new ways to build relationships without relying on an “elevator pitch.”

This cost-effective approach has immediate results. ImprovNeworking sessions can be customized to meet the needs of any organization.

How to engage millennial employees? Give them opportunities to grow and develop by stepping out of their comfort zones to improve their capacity to build relationships and communicate in a more spontaneous and confident manner.