- Ask questions about them and their families...nothing gets people talking faster and deeper than when you ask about their hobbies and children
- Be willing to offer your own story...you never know where the connections will happen
- Extend your hand, offer a shake, and tell them your name and what you do...making people ask the obvious always seems odd to me
- Have an arsenal of questions ready...what do you do? what brings you here? where did you grow up? what is your favorite thing about this conference? etc
- Be interested...your enthusiasm will go a long way to keep the conversation going
- Don't make it a sales call...keep your business card in your wallet or purse until someone asks for it or it seems obvious this connection should continue
- Set a mental time limit for the conversation...nothing is worse than a conversation that drags on because one (or the other) person keeps talking
- Learn to exit gracefully...do you have to see someone else? make a phone call? go the the restroom? get in line for food? check your email?
- Be willing to be quiet...those of us who are extroverts believe it is our God-given duty to keep the conversation going at all costs. Sometimes it's okay to just sit next to someone and be quiet.
Small talk is precisely that...small and short. It's not too painful, and you never know where it might lead. AND it's just another way to be nice to someone else.