Have you ever been in the elevator with an executive at your company and found yourself stumbling your way with uncomfortable conversation? And by the time you made it back to your desk, you regretted most of what you said. We’ve all been there.
Some of us are better with small talk than others. But even the smoothest of talkers can feel painfully awkward. So how can you avoid bumbling exchanges, confusing non-verbal cues and start a productive relationship?
Since many of you are about to leave for the WICT Leadership conference next week- thought it was a good time to share a few tips that I found on how to chat with C-Suite, or even the S’s and E’s. After all, you never know who you might run into on the elevators, in the lobby or at the airport.
Do your homework. Communicate like an Executive
The best way to talk to a big wig is to speak their language. Do your homework and find out about their accomplishments or what they are focused on now. Think in advance about what you might say. Showing your admiration and interest in their work is ok. In fact, most executives love to talk about their achievements. Just be careful not to go overboard with adoration and start to sound creepy.
Do be prepared to talk in any setting
You never know where you might run into an executive. It could be in the hall. Or in the bathroom. Be respectful of the situation and make sure the conversation is appropriate. Not every meeting is right for serious business discussions. If you’re in a social setting, you might want to find out about the executive’s interests: what are their hobbies, their favorite sports, their volunteer activities. Small talk can lead to deeper conversations about who you are. Also, remember to always have your elevator speech ready, along with the main message points about what you’re working on, your career path and yourself.
Do show your personality
Leaders are interested in what kind of person you are. Be casual and approachable. They’re looking to see your character and what sets you apart from the other aspiring leaders. Show them who you are. Being memorable can be the key to moving up. But don’t be overly funny, too flat or the overly excessive life-sharer. Remember to make eye contact, smile, and act relaxed. Most importantly, tell them your full name if they don’t know you.
Do read the situation. Don’t rattle on.
If the executive seems interested, keep talking. But read their body language. If they seem distracted or not listening, don’t hold them hostage. Be mindful of their time and cut the conversation short and move one if they don’t seem interested. But remember to thank them for talking to you. Rattling on and on when no one is paying attention to you is not the best way to be remembered.
Do have an answer for “How’s it going?”
It’s easy just to say, “I’m doing good.” But then comes the moment of awkward silence. Take advantage of the situation. Give the executive insight on what you’re doing. Tell then “I’m good. Thank you for asking” and then pivot to a real conversation. Talk about something that excites you. At the WICT convention, you could chat about one of the sessions you just attended. The more you put yourself out there, the more executives get to know you, your interests and your abilities.
By following these dos and don’ts, you will soon be on your way to chatting with the big wigs and perhaps propelling your career forward.
Have you ever had an awkward chat with an executive? Share your tips and stories in the comments section below.