No matter what business you’re in, at some point you will have to make polite conversation about non-business matters. It may be with your coworkers or a business associate. Often you will need to make small talk during a job interview or when meeting a new client. Everyone knows to avoid politics and religion, but there’s more to choosing a good topic of conversation than that. Read on to learn what topics are good for a business environment.
The main thing to keep in mind when choosing a topic is to aim for something that your conversation partner can enjoy talking about. This will be easier to do for your coworkers, once you get to know them, but for people you’ve just met this can be a little trickier. The key is to pick topics that either have broad appeal and most people are somewhat knowledgeable about.
Current events are a good topic that the person you’re talking to is likely to know about. Obviously, you shouldn’t talk about the latest political news, but news relating to your area of business, local happenings, or human-interest stories are good subjects of conversation. An example of this would be when a plane was landed in the Hudson River. Shortly afterward, this was a great topic for conversation. Everyone knew about it, and even those that didn’t would probably have found the story interesting to hear!
Books and movies that are currently popular are another good topic. Choosing currently popular books and recently released or upcoming movies makes it more likely that the person you’re talking to would have heard about it and possibly be interested in talking about it.
Company news should be of interest to the people who work there. This could be a new product launch, a change in structure, or even something as simple as new decorations in the building. These topics may not be as interesting to people outside the company, however, so remember your audience.
Sports are sometimes a good choice, but require a certain amount of care. Only really popular sporting events are likely to be of interest to most people. Don’t bring up the most recent college basketball match unless you already know for certain your conversation partner is interested. Events like the Olympics or World Series are important enough that most people are likely to know about them, however.
On a final note, remember that the conversation topic you choose is not set in stone. If the other person doesn’t seem interested, switch to another one, or even try to get them to choose the topic. In the end all that matters is that you have a pleasant exchange.