Starting small talk – Business English do’s and don’ts

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Small talk plays a very important role in Business English communication. Business people do it all the time – on the telephone, in emails and in almost all face-to-face situations. It’s not something that we all feel comfortable with, however. If you work with British or American colleagues you may experience frustration when they don’t get to the point and waste valuable time discussing topics which aren’t related to the meeting or phone call. For them, it’s an essential way of building good business relationships, it’s a ‘ritual’ of opening the business communication and if it’s overlooked then an important part of the interaction hasn’t taken place.

Here’s how to start a small talk conversation:

Talk about the trip to your meeting place:

  • Did you find us ok?
  • Is this your first time (in this city/visiting us)?
  • How was your flight?

Talk about things you know about your business partner:

  • How long have you worked for your company?
  • You must travel a lot for your job!
  • You were at the conference in Geneva last week – how was it?

Ask ‘safe’ questions about interests and opinions:

  • What did you think of the restaurant last night?
  • Are you busy at the moment?
  • Are you interested in sports/cooking/music?

Using effective small talk will help you make a big impact in business!

Useful language:

  • Play an important role – eine wichtige Rolle spielen
  • face-to-face situations – persönliche Gespräche
  • however – jedoch
  • experience – erfahren
  • get to the point – zur Sache kommen
  • waste – verschwenden
  • valuable time – wertvolle Zeit
  • aren’t related – nicht in Zusammenhang stehen
  • overlooked – übersehen
  • taken place – stattgefunden

Practice the useful language here

Do you want to know more about do’s and don’t of Business English? Contact me:


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