Small talk in business 1

Small talk in business and in social situations is a friendly and informal conversation about things that are not important. It is common for small talk to take place among people who do not know each other very well, for example at work meetings and business conferences.

[Last updated on 25/07/2018]

Successful small talk can make a positive impression and also play a role in developing relationships. However, it can also be challenging and uncomfortable for both native English speakers and even more so for English language learners. You can of course avoid group contact and pretend that there is an important message on your mobile phone! Alternatively, here are some ideas making small talk in business situations easier and to help avoid any awkward silences.

Small talk in business 2

Tips for small talk in business situations

Small talk topics

The advantage of small talk is that there are common topics that are suitable in most situations, and other areas that should generally be avoided. The key is to choose topics that make the interaction more comfortable and here are some recommendations for small talk in business English.

  • Good topics: weather, free time, current events, leisure, sport, travel, work, food, shopping, entertainment
  • Bad topics: politics, religion, health, personal issues, salary

Start the conversation and ask questions

Introduce yourself and don’t be afraid to start the conversation. It’s great to have a few questions to benefit your small talk in business English or at social events in the future. There are common topics and here are a few example questions to break the ice and get talking.

At a conference

  • So, is this your first time here?
  • How did you get here today?

Free time

  • What did you do at the weekend?
  • What do you like to do in your free time?


  • It’s quite warm/cold for this time of the year, isn’t it?
  • How was the weather in your city when you left?

Please like us for weekly updates on facebook and twitter to give more ideas to Business English students. You can learn English small talk expressions and practise at work or in your own time.

Small talk in business 3

Give compliments (not complements!)

Everyone likes compliments and it can also be a great way to connect with business contacts and strangers. Just be genuine and honest! This can have a positive impact, keep the conversation going and also help to develop a business connection or social relationship. Here are some ideas for giving compliments and making people smile.

  • That was an excellent presentation and I’d like to find out more.
  • You gave some great ideas in the meeting.
  • You look great today
  • I heard that you were promoted. Congratulations. How is your new position?

Get ideas from your surroundings

When you are making small talk, you can get ideas from what is around you. These types of questions are great because they are very neutral and easy to discuss. At a conference or an evening dinner, you could ask “Would you like to get a coffee?” or “What do you think of the food/music/location?”

Give information about yourself

Small talk should always be a two-way conversation where people listen to each other. Sometimes, it can be helpful to give a story or information about yourself. This can generate interest from others and give them confidence to take part and share their experiences. You could speak about your last business conference, and tell listeners about interesting or even funny stories. You could also speak about travel, and your experience of learning English or communicating in another language.

Asking for advice

People often appreciate being asked for their opinion or advice. You could ask for recommendations about local restaurants, places to visit, or advice about work. If you choose the right topic they will be happy to give ideas and you can listen and respond with more questions.

Final recommendations for Business English students

Business English and small talk in business situations are key to connecting with new people. It is important to show an interest and have positive body language to make the conversation comfortable and engaging. It can cover more topics and have questions than you would expect in a business meeting or presentation, but try to remember a few questions to get started.

Small talk can be challenging when speaking English as a foreign language and we recommend our Business English courses in Munich where you can to practise with our native English teachers face-to-face. Our teachers have experience in business and teaching at English language schools worldwide, so you can practise English in an office environment and be better prepared for the next business event.