Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation and Leave a Positive Impression

Have you ever had that awkward moment, at a networking event, when you know you should be talking and mingling and making business connections, but you can’t think of a thing to say? We all know the feeling of having nothing to say and hours to say it in. You just want to start fiddling with your cell phone and disappear.

people networking copy

I just got back from the annual conference of the Association of Independent Information Professionals, which was held in Denver, Colorado this year. AIIP is an international association of owners of information businesses, and many—like Romainiacs—are using skills and experiences honed from the corporate information center to provide their clients with intelligent information on which to make better informed business decisions. There were many fine presenters, providing insight into useful strategies, and I gained some invaluable connections and had many chances to make small talk with strangers.

The point of this post is to let you know about one presenter in particular—Debra Fine, who spoke on:

The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start A Conversation, Keep it Going, Build Rapport and Leave a Positive Impression.

In her presentation, Debra said that she had once been painfully shy, so networking was hard work for her. As she pointed out, however, there are many talented, educated, and wonderful people in the world that are incredibly shy. Maybe you’re one of them, and you sometimes struggle to engage in conversation when you’d rather just retreat to a far corner. What you need is a strategy for attacking the situation, and Debra had quite a few insights to share.


Here are a few tips and recommendations from Debra:

  1. Silence is impolite. Find ways to make other people feel comfortable, which, of course helps you feel comfortable, too. At conferences, for example, you can ask if they’ve been to any interesting sessions, if they enjoyed the keynote, or what was the best swag they picked up at the vendor booths.
  2. Good things come to those who go get them! Tell yourself that it’s up to you to start talking. You will actually be the hero if you start the conversation – even more so if you don’t start talking about the weather or your cats. People will embrace your efforts and appreciate your leadership. The more you practice breaking the ice, the better you get at it, so take the opportunity to improve your skills to size up someone and figure out what to talk about.
  3. It’s up to you to assume the burden of conversion. The first step in becoming a great conversationalist is become invested in making the other person feel comfortable. I think this tip is incredibly valuable. Putting your colleague at ease shows empathy as well as leadership.
  4. It’s better to give than receive. We’ve all watched someone frantically paw through their mental Rolodex trying to place us – bail them out before it gets painful! Give them your name, even if it’s someone you’ve met before. By telling them your name, you let them off the hook and they do not have to be distracted trying to remember it.


Here are a few icebreakers to help you get past that awkward, interminable silence—and to help you find interesting intersections that will broaden your relationships.

Ask your new found colleague:

  1. To describe a typical day on the job. This could lead to talking about your IT team, your computer tools, or some other technology topic quickly.
  2. What got you interested in social media, earthquakes, or whatever the topic of the day is? This could quickly morph into a discussion about ideas you have in common.
  3. What separates you and your firm from your competition?  For a follow up you could probe to see how your new acquaintance sees their landscape. You could find yourself discussing current events in your field, such as recent mergers and acquisitions.
  4. What advice would you give to someone just starting in your business?  You could advance to discussions about mentoring, education, or simply marvel at the technical skills of the newest members of our profession.

Be interested and interesting.

Nod, agree, and look them in the eye. Someone once described an encounter with former President Bill Clinton, and said that while with him, the President made that person seem like the only other person in the room. What a great feeling – someone who conversed with world leaders and powerful titans of industry was taking the time to actually listen! That one-on-one skill is at the heart of networking. You don’t want to just exchange business cards and slide away – you want to make a connection. If you do, to quote the great Dale Carnegie, you will consistently win friends and influence people.

Good luck! And now can we talk about my cat?


Google handles 115 Billion Searches a Month

Google Handles 115 Billion Searches a Month

Whether you are a professional information researcher with decades of experience or just learning your way around the Internet, as the following chart shows, we all use Google. All the time. For everything. But even as efficient as Google is, when you are panning for information gold, you’ll need an expert information researcher who knows where the best nuggets are hidden.

Statista, which is itself a gold mine for information researchers, offers details on the sheer volume of online searches on Google and other top search engines. When you need an information navigator to help you find just the gold nugget you are looking for Romainiacs can help.

In December 2012, more than 175 billion online searches were conducted worldwide. That is 65,000 searches per second, of which 65 percent were handled by market leader Google. According to recent comScore data, the U.S. search giant handled an overwhelming 115 billion searches in December, distancing its strongest competitor Baidu by more than 100 billion searches. About 8.2 percent of global searches were conducted on Baidu in December thanks to the company’s strong position in China. Yahoo surprisingly claimed the third rank, with 4.9 percent of all searches conducted on Yahoo’s sites. It should be noted that Yahoo’s search is powered by Microsoft’s Bing search engine, but comScore tracks the site on which a search is conducted rather than the underlying search engine. With 2.8 percent of searches, Microsoft fell from fourth place in the ranking to Russian competitor Yandex, who handled 2.8 percent of all searches.

Today’s first chart shows the number of searches handled by leading search sites in December 2012.


When it comes to the number of searchers, Google’s market dominance is just as impressive.

In December, 77 percent of the 1.52 billion search engine users worldwide conducted a Google search at least once. That’s 1.17 billion Google users, as opposed to 293 million users of Baidu and 292 million users of Yahoo’s search. Microsoft’s Bing was used by 267 million people in December, clearly distancing Yandex in terms of reach.

Our second chart shows the number of unique individuals using the top 5 search sites in December 2012.



Best Practices: Overcoming Information Overload

Join the call: Wednesday, December 5, 12:00 EST Register here.

Organizations of all sizes are rich in content – reports, news alerts, RSS feeds, wiki’s, videos, newsletters, blog posts, tweets etc. But for information consumers, a lack of organization and context creates a blur of information that causes frustration and makes it difficult to get work done.

Download the paper: myICANN: A case study in empowering communities through information management by Cindy Romaine, Romainiacs Intelligent Research

Content is king and queen

Content–its creation, presentation, packaging, distribution and repackaging–is trending. This chart from BusinessInsider captures the benefits.

The Rise Of Content 4.0

Seth’s Blog: No one ever bought anything on an elevator

« Raise and lower (more for less) | Blog Home | Everybody knows everything »

No one ever bought anything on an elevator

If your elevator pitch is a hyper-compressed two-minute overview of your hopes, dreams and the thing you’ve been building for the last three years, you’re doing everyone a disservice. I’ll never be able to see the future through your eyes this quickly, and worse, if you’ve told me what I need to know to be able to easily say no, I’ll say no.

The best elevator pitch doesn’t pitch your project. It pitches the meeting about your project. The best elevator pitch is true, stunning, brief and it leaves the listener eager (no, desperate) to hear the rest of it. It’s not a practiced, polished turd of prose that pleases everyone on the board and your marketing team, it’s a little fractal of the entire story, something real.

“I quit my job as an Emmy-winning actress to do this because…” or “Our company is profitable and has grown 10% per week, every week, since July,” or “The King of Spain called me last week about the new project we just launched.”

More conversations and fewer announcements.

Email thisSubscribe to this feedShare on Facebook

Posted by on October 22, 2012 | Permalink


TrackBack URL for this entry:

Listed below are links to weblogs that reference No one ever bought anything on an elevator:

« Raise and lower (more for less) | Blog Home | Everybody knows everything »

Before reading this I dreaded sharing that pithy little elevator speech, now it is a challenge to write my person version of “I quit my job as an Emmy-winning actress to do this because….”