In this globalised world, more and more of you probably work for multinational companies.
Some of you may work for companies that don’t have offices in your country, and consequently, you work from home and report in remotely.
Some of you may work for companies who have representative offices in your country but their location is too far for you to commute in every day. Consequently, you too work from home and occasionally visit HQ for the odd meeting.
In the latter years of my career in finance, I worked remotely (my role involved visiting clients in my area) and visiting HQ every quarter for the quarterly sales meetings.
This meant that all communication with HQ was done over the phone and via email. Now of course, there’s also video conferencing or tele-conferencing. In some situations, you would’ve met some of your colleagues or seen them over Zoom or Skype and in others, you’ve only ever communicated via email. You only have a name or voice, but no face.
If you work for Western companies, the chances are they will organise a company Christmas party (or ‘do’) to which you’re invited and more importantly, you’re expected to attend.
Does the idea of attending the Christmas party fill you with joy as you look forward to socialising with your colleagues and meeting some others for the first time?
Or….does the idea fill you with terror and give you sleepless nights?
If it’s the latter feeling, let me guess what might truly terrify you?
Engaging in small talk in English?
All this time your communication with your colleagues has been strictly business and that was ok, but now you’re going to have to socialise with them and talk about other topics.
Maybe you’re an introvert and small talk is not your thing in your own language, but now you’ve got a double shock – socialising and in English! How bad can this get?
Or maybe you are a social animal – just not in English. You may not have a problem approaching people, but you don’t have a clue where to start, what to say and, more importantly, keep the conversation going.
I know EXACTLY what you mean. It can be extremely daunting to attend a Christmas party and engage with colleagues you hardly ever see and not talk shop (business). It just sounds like so much hard work to engage in that chit chat about non-business related subjects. PLUS if you have to do this in English, it’s just too nerve wracking.
So what can you do? Well, you can prepare yourself for the occasion (and I don’t mean buying your Christmas dress or suit)
You can prepare for certain situations you think you may find yourself in. For example,
- entering the room and not knowing what to do and what to say;
- asking to be introduced to someone you’ve worked with remotely but never met in person;
- starting the conversation with that person;
- breaking into a group conversation.
Taking the above 4 scenarios, I’m going to create a conversation recipe that you might find helpful.
Scenario #1: Entering the room
Imagine entering a room full of people all having conversations.At first glance you don’t recognise ANYONE. Scary, isn’t it? If you’re like me you scan the room looking for a familiar face and then go towards them. It always feels safer to start with someone you recognise and already know.
Amit: Hey, Tom.
Tom: Amit! Good to see you. How’s it going?
Amit: Very well. Thanks. How about you?
Tom: All good. When did you get here?
Amit: I arrived this morning for the sales meeting and have been in meetings all day.
Tom: Well, in that case..you’ll be ready for a drink. What can I get you?
Amit: I’ll have an orange juice and lemonade, thanks.
Tom: Sure you don’t want anything stronger?
Amit: No, that’s fine. I don’t drink.
Scenario #2: Asking to be introduced to someone you’ve worked with but never met in person
You may know what the person looks like if you’ve had video conferences with them but what if you haven’t and you’d like to meet them. How do you find them in a sea of people?
Let’s go back to Amit and Tom.
Amit: Tom, do you know Samantha in the Logistics team? Is she here?
Tom: Yes, I do and yes, I think she is. Why do you ask?
Amit: Well, we’ve been working together on that Dubai contract for the last couple of months and she’s been a huge help. We’ve only ever communicated via email and I wanted to finally put a face to a name and thank her for her hard work.
Tom: Oh of course. Let’s see if I can see her. Ah yes, there she is. Come on, let’s go over.
Tom: Excuse me, Samantha? Sorry to interrupt but I wanted to introduce you to Amit from our Mumbai office. I believe you know each other?
Samantha: Amit from the Mumbai office? Oh of course I do. Hello Amit. What a pleasure we finally get to meet in person.
Amit: The pleasure is all mine.
Tom: Well, I’ll leave you two to have a chat.
Amit: Thanks Tom. See you later.
Scenario #3: Starting a conversation with that person and NOT talking shop.
This situation could potentially be awkward because you may work well with someone remotely, and especially when talking business, but steering the conversation away from business and taking to them in person can be more tricky. So, you need to think about how you could do this. You could start off with the work you did together and then move on to other topics.
Amit: It’s such a pleasure to meet you, Samantha, and finally put a face to a name. I also wanted to thank you for your invaluable help with the Dubai account.
Samantha: Oh I was only doing my job but thank you, I appreciate it. Yes, that Dubai account was a nightmare to begin with, wasn’t it?
Amit: Unbelievable! There were moments when I thought the deal was lost.
Samantha: But it did and as the saying goes: all’s well that ends well.
Amit: How long have you worked for the company?
Samantha: Nearly ten years. How about you?
Amit: About 12 years but only two with this company. Our company in Mumbai was taken over by this company and I joined the regional sales team two years ago.
Samantha: Ahh, I see. Is this your first time to the HO Christmas party?
Amit: Yes, it is. Last year I couldn’t make it because my wife just had our first child and I didn’t want to leave her.
Samantha: Oh how lovely. Boy or girl?
Amit: A girl.
Samantha: What’s her name?
And the conversation continues….
Scenario #4: Breaking into a group conversation where everyone knows everyone else.
This can be especially difficult especially when everyone’s chatting away. You’re not sure how to interrupt and at the same time not interrupt the conversations.
When I’ve wanted to do this, I’ve positioned myself near someone I know with a drink in my hand and started actively following the conversation they’re having by making eye contact and nodding in agreement to what they’re saying and smiling at them. Body language helps a lot here because as you nod and smile people begin to notice you and will eventually shift their position to let you into the group. And then you’re in!
You: Oh, I absolutely agree. (Smiling and nodding)
The person you know in the group (Carl): Stacy, do you know the others in the group?
You: No, I don’t believe so but your face seems familiar..
Carl: Oh you mean Mark? Ah yes, Mark’s the head of IT. You may have seen him in the latest newsletter. Mark, this is Stacy Goodman. She’s in our research team. Stacy, Mark Weller.
You: Hello, nice to meet you.
Carl: Let me introduce you to the others……We were just guessing what the Footsie 100 index (UK stockmarket index) finish at by the end of the year. My guess is it will end at 7600. What do you think?
And the conversation continues…..
These are only 4 scenarios. I am sure you can think of plenty more. If you’d like to have a conversation recipe of a scenario you may find yourself in, share it with me in the comments box and I’ll create more recipes.
Speaking of conversation recipes….
I am re-launching my ebook “Small Talk To Go” in mid- January 2018. Yay!
Not only will you have 10 delicious recipes you can use anytime and anywhere together with the workbook, you will also be able to HEAR how the conversations sound with a brand new audiobook!
Are you excited? I can hardly wait.
Want to know when the new version is released? Join the EWAT community today and you’ll be invited to the pre-launch party.
If you’ve got a corporate Christmas party coming up, enjoy it and try these recipes out and tell me how it went.
See you next week.
Ciao for now
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