Seasoned conversationalists are usually great storytellers and can carry on a conversation about a wide range of topics. When you’re knowledgeable and well-read, small talk can become more than an opportunity to pass the time. Instead, it’s an easy way to have interesting conversations with clients and colleagues.
If you’d like to take your networking ability to the next level, set out to acquire a well-rounded repertoire of conversational subjects. Read newspapers, books and magazines. Listen to podcasts and TED talks. Sign up for classes and attend cultural events. Travel to exotic locations.
If you invest in personal development, you’ll stand out as an entrepreneur who is intelligent, experienced and interesting. Here are eight ways to learn a little about a lot in just a few minutes a day.
1. Subscribe to a daily newspaper. You could subscribe to your local paper or opt for a daily with national distribution such as The New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. If you would prefer not to have the actual paper delivered to your home or office, most offer a digital edition for a reduced subscription rate. Go online and read newspapers from other parts of the world. When you travel, pick up the local paper at the airport. It’s an opportunity to spur conversation with clients, colleagues and friends.
2. Read for 20 minutes a day. As the saying goes, "readers are leaders." Pick up one or two books on an interesting subject you know very little about. Read fiction and non-fiction. If you have a very busy schedule, or often become distracted later in the day, read first thing in the morning or over your lunch break.
3. Multi-task on your commute to work. Podcasts and audiobooks can help you pass the time in traffic or on the train — and teach you a little something at the same time. Research which podcasts and audiobooks are available on the topic you’d like to learn more about. Read reviews and download a few to your smartphone. Even a short commute will give you enough time to learn a couple new tidbits.
4. Listen and learn. You may be tempted to walk away from a group conversation if it segues into a topic with which you’re not familiar. Instead, stick around and listen. Ask questions. Offer any insight you have based on your unique experience and perspective.
5. Sign up for a class. Many municipalities offer adult education classes in a variety of topics that range from painting, creative writing to foreign languages. These classes are typically small, inexpensive and will give you the opportunity to explore an area of interest. If your city or county doesn’t offer classes, contact your local community college or university.
6. Attend local events. Chances are your area has dozens of groups that regularly get together for social and professional reasons. Most are focused on one thing: an industry or profession, a particular culture or a shared interest. Sign up and go when you have the chance. It’s an opportunity to make new connections and learn something new.
7. Visit museums and cultural centers. Take advantage of the historical and cultural exhibitions in your area. Visit museums that focus on an area you know very little about. If you have a particular question, most museums have docents who are extremely knowledgeable and would be glad to speak with you or give you a tour.
8. Venture outside your comfort zone. If you consciously look for opportunities, there are thousands of ways to meet new people and learn about new things. Take advantage of the knowledge your neighbors, colleagues and acquaintances have to offer. Ask questions and be curious. If a particular topic piques your interest, reach out to an expert with a specific question. The world is full of surprises; all you have to do is keep your eyes open.