Do you go to business events and need to take part in English small talk conversations? Meeting new people or existing contacts outside of a meeting can be really interesting and enjoyable. Meeting and getting to know people at business events provides a great opportunity for networking and developing professional relationships. However, for some it can be more difficult and less attractive that the business meeting itself.
Why? At a business meeting, you need to speak about a specific topic in English. This can help you to prepare all the information that you need and answers to possible questions in advance.
In contrast, English small talk usually occurs before and after official meetings, and also at business social events. It is often more informal and can involve random questions about a variety of topics. As a result, and it can be more difficult to prepare beforehand and to think of answers on the spot.
In this blog, we are giving ideas and tips to make English small talk easier for business events.
Top 5 tips for English small talk conversations at business events
1. Start the conversation
At business events, you might have to speak to strangers! If you start the conversation, it can be easier to prepare in advance. You can introduce yourself and then ask some simple opening questions to new faces.
- Hello / Good morning / Good afternoon / Good evening
- My name’s Matthew and I work for (company). What’s your name?
- Nice to meet you (name)
2. Choose a topic and expand the conversation
After you have introduced yourself, you will need to expand the conversation and share some information. Think about topics that interest you and that you like talking about (e.g. sport, work, free-time, hobbies etc). Just keep in mind that it’s probably not a great idea to discuss sensitive topics, such as political views, salary and personal relationships. This can make a conversation more uncomfortable and won’t make English small talk easier.
Here are eight topics that we recommend, with questions that are safer and easier to answer. You can either use our questions, or adapt them to fit the situation.
Clearly, you don’t need to remember all of these questions. However, you could take a look at our suggested questions and brainstorm some possible answers beforehand. Also, you might want to remember just a few key questions that will help you to break the ice and develop the conversation.
English small talk topics and questions for business occasions
Work & location
- So, is this your first time here?
- How long have you been working in (city)?
- I work in (city), and where are you based?
- Do you have to travel a lot for work?
- Would you ever consider working abroad?
- How often do you have to travel for work?
Work & transport
- How did you get here today?
- How do you usually get to work?
- Do you commute to work or do you live nearby?
- How long does it usually take you to get to work?
- What do you think of the public transport here?
- Do you think the public transport here is better than in (city)?
Work in general
- What do you like most/least about your job?
- Are you having a busy week?
- How long have you been working here/there?
- Do you both/all work at the same company?
- Are you here by yourself or with colleagues?
- Do you work alone or as part of a team?
- What do you think of the weather?
- The weather’s great/terrible this week, isn’t it?
- What do you like to do when the weather's hot?
- What is your favourite time of year for the weather?
- Do you know if we'll have good weather this weekend?
- What do you like to do when it's really cold?
Free time, Hobbies, Sport
- What did you do at the weekend?
- What do you like to do in your free time?
- Do you like to watch/play football?
- Do you play any sports?
- What are you planning on doing after work?
- Do you usually go out at the weekend?
- Where do you like to go on holiday?
- Where would you recommend for sightseeing?
- Do you prefer city breaks or relaxing by the sea?
- What is the one of the best places you've visited?
- What is your idea of a nice relaxing holiday?
- Do you prefer to fly or take the car?
Food and drinks
- Have you tried/Do you like the food here?
- Do you know any good restaurants around here?
- Would you like to get a coffee?
- What is your favourite type of food?
- Do you usually have breakfast before work?
- Do you like to cook or prefer to go out?
Education and training
- Where did you go to college/university?
- What did you study at college/university?
- Did you enjoy the course/workshop?
- Would you recommend that course to others?
- Do you speak any other languages?
- Have you been to any language courses?
3. Listen, respond and ask for more information
Some people are nervous about speaking English and try to think of the next question they can ask or want to prepare what they can say next. On the other hand, you still need to listen to the other people in the group and respond to what they are saying!
Our advice is that you don’t always need to reply with long answers to show that you are interested. Instead, you can often use short phrases to respond to someone else. These can show that you agree or understand their comments, that you are paying attention or used to compliment the other person. For example:
- Oh, really?
- That’s interesting.
- Oh, why was that?
- What happened next?
- Oh, I see.
- That sounds great.
- Oh wow!
You can also express your interest and keep the conversation going by asking more questions. If someone says, “I work in New York,” you can of course reply “That’s interesting” or “Oh, really?”
It is also a fact that English small talk conversations at business events gets easier if you can keep them talking! So, you could ask more questions, such as “How long have you been working there?” or “What do you like about working in New York?”
You can even use their responses to compare with your own experiences, likes and dislikes.
4. Ask other people in the group
You don’t have to change the topic and ask more questions every time you speak. If you have a group of people, you can simply ask the same question to other people as well as sharing opinions.
- And how about you?
- What do you think?
- And you?
5. Close the conversation
Hopefully, you will get to know some interesting people at business events, but English small talk must, sooner or later, come to an end. You might need to speak to other people, the actual business meeting is about to start, or maybe they have served the last drinks and it’s time for bed!
Here are some useful expressions to close a conversation.
- It was great to meet you. / It was a pleasure meeting you.
- I look forward to seeing you again.
- Let’s keep in touch.
- Have a safe journey back.
Develop further with Business English courses
We have given a lot of ideas to make business English small talk conversations easier. However, the best way to improve your English language skills is through speaking practice. You can try this with friends and colleagues, but if you want professional feedback, we can provide Business English courses that can be designed to suit your needs.
You can take our free online English test to check your level of proficiency and then our qualified teachers can give you an set out a plan to help you develop your English skills. This can include English small talk for business events, English for meetings, presentations, emails, telephone calls and more.
Good luck at your next business event!