Maybe you’ve stood in the doorway to a meeting, conference or networking event—and wished to be anywhere else on earth.

No matter how accomplished you are, suddenly you’re back at a middle school dance.

You can almost feel the pimples erupting on your forehead. Your palms are getting damp. You look around the room and everyone else seems to be in tight twosomes or cliquish groups—just designed to exclude you.

You’re afraid no one will ever dance with you.

That was the nightmare a successful senior executive was living in her head. “I have a hard time with small talk: I never know what to say,” she explained. “Can you give me some ideas?”

The Big Secret to Small Talk

What she and many of us forget is that the most fascinating subject for us is—ourselves. All we need is for someone to ask a good question and actively listen to what we say. Research shows when this happens, we believe that person is smarter and more physically attractive—and we want to spend more time with her or him.

Here’s a quick article on active listening.

And this is a link to a two-page checklist of the best questions to download for your use. They’re arranged into four groups:

  • Conference or program-related questions
  • Business-related questions
  • Learning more about the person questions
  • Continuing the conversation questions

These are designed not only to show your interest, but to get interesting responses that are worthy of your listening skills.

Improve the level of your conversation with people you want to know better: whether you’re meeting them for the first time or wish to deepen your relationship. And banish those blemishes.

Want more skills to handle communication conundrums? You talk—and I’ll listen well.