As you transition from the idea of starting your own business to actually doing it, there’s one thing that every entrepreneur must know: it’s time to get chatty.

Yes, mastering the art of small talk can make you not only a great conversationalist but can also open the door to unexpected opportunities. After all, you never know who you will cross paths with and how it will impact your future. I promise it’s not as painful as it sounds and so much good can come from putting down your phone and chatting with the person next to you while waiting for your morning Starbucks.

Make proper introductions

This seems silly and probably obvious, but how many times have you started speaking with someone at a party, had a great conversation and then left without even knowing his or her name? It happens too often. If you’ve met someone or are being introduced to someone who might be great to collaborate with, work with or even be a potential client – make sure that you get personal with them and learn their name how to read them.

Lead the conversation

When small talk arises in the office, at a networking event – or any place you may meet new potential colleagues, make sure that you lead in the conversation. Let the other person know how interested you are in what they say, but also be assertive and memorable. Leading in the conversation will allow you to exude confidence in yourself and whatever it is you’re passionate about in life.

As a part of this strategy, make sure that you have something in mind to say. If you’re at a networking event for instance, have a clear objective in mind for the evening and work that room like it’s your job. (Because it is.)

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Ask open-ended questions

It’s too easy to ask questions that simply bring on only a “yes” or “no” answer, which will end the conversation or bring on an awkward silence. To avoid that, ask engaging questions that will extend the conversation and keep you in the lead.

Keep your positivity high and expectations low

Let’s face it – more often than not, small talk doesn’t lead to anything major. But, it’s always when you don’t think much of it when the small talk leads to something great. Approach every situation with a positive attitude (yes, leave the “I wish I was somewhere else” ‘tude at home – even if you’re stuck in a less than desirable discussion), but also understand that it might not lead to great things, and that’s okay.

Be yourself

In a sea of sameness (think: weather talk, promises of getting drinks, generic life updates), you will stand out if you dare to be different. Chat about quirky topics that you love, share a unique hobby you have, or interesting insight. Uniqueness is always memorable.

Find something you have in common

Finding common ground in the conversation is always, always key. Start light and as soon as something comes to the surface that you might have in common – run with it!

Touch base

How will you know if you have actually mastered the art of small talk? It’s all about the follow up. If there was a great impression left on the person you were speaking with, some type of contact will probably be made to follow-up on your conversation. Just sit back and watch your inbox explode.

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