Accelerating the Advancement of Women Leaders 


September 20, 2018

From flustered to fluid in brief encounters
Even for the most outgoing extrovert, making professional small talk can pose a challenge. Sure, you could talk about the weather or your weekend plans. But impromptu interactions with the higher ups or colleagues from other areas present unique opportunities to grow your personal brand and should not be missed.
Sometimes called an “elevator pitch,” having a few concise, targeted items to share during a chance meeting can turn an awkward elevator ride into the chance to promote an important project you’re working on or gain new insights into company priorities.

“I like to prepare a few key things to say about myself and to highlight an important project I’m working on so that even an unexpected opportunity to interact with a senior person in the company will leave them with a positive impression of me and my contributions,” said Mandi Wagner, Operations Associate Lead in the Dallas Field Office for McDonald’s USA, LLC. “Ideally, I’ll be able to share something in a way that helps them remember me in the future.”

Even a casual, ‘How are things?’ when your boss pops her head into your office is a chance to highlight your areas of focus. Here are some things to consider when it comes to engaging in small talk that packs more punch. Take the opportunity to:

  • Briefly explain your role in the organization and what excites you about it
  • Share one or two high-level things you are working on
  • Get specific. When asked how you are, you can move the conversation forward with a quick pivot to something you are excited about. “I’m well. I’m especially excited because we just expanded our business with the Myer account.”
  • Connect what you are working on to the larger goals of the company
  • Consider keeping a concise and well-formed question in mind you can use in a pinch, such as "What are you most excited about in the company today?"
  • Read the body language and non-verbal cues. If the other person is ready to move on, let them do so gracefully
“I’m going to my home office this fall where I will run into a lot of senior people,” Wagner added. “I’ll prepare so that I know I have ideas top of mind to share.”

Having just a few well-planned items to share about your progress at work can turn a potentially awkward interaction with more senior colleagues into a meaningful conversation that benefits you both.

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