How do I handle small talk with new people?

Dear Ms Manners,

Last week you talked about branding yourself. I love this idea and I’ve picked how I want to portray myself, but sometimes I don’t know what topics to talk about with new people. Can you help me?


Well done on your brand. I hope it’s successful – much better than walking around blind, right?


For those who didn’t see last week’s question here is a sneaky recap: nerves = pointless. You control the nerves and the thoughts that bring them on.


Ask: “How do I want to portray myself?” Pick three words that signify what you would have to do to do this and play this character in every conversation you have professionally.


Now you have done this, you are ready to take on the world, but sometimes you still don’t know what to say to that world.


I really believe we were on to something in our early teens. Remember when you might call someone you had a crush on and you wrote down a list of things you could talk about on the phone? Well I think we should have a list like this, but in our head.


If one of your personal branding words is “witty” then have a list of amusing things you could throw into conversations when engaging in small talk. For example, knowing some silly laws (current or past) from around the world will help you sound witty in conversations.


In Thailand it is illegal to drive a car without a shirt, and you aren’t allowed to leave your home without underwear. In England any boy under 10-years-old is not to see a mannequin without clothes on and all the swans are property of the Queen.


In Canada it is illegal to climb trees and in our own backyard of Australia it is illegal to be on the street wearing black clothes, felt shoes and black shoe polish on your face.


This is just one possible word in your personal branding – make it fun and make that list. Being prepared is always the best defence.


Enjoy your new confidence and the game of etiquette.


Kind Regards,


Ms. Manners


Ms Manners, aka Danielle Di-Masi, is an expert personal brand and business etiquette coach and trainer at her company Next Business Leaders.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
SmartCompany Plus

Sign in

To connect a sign in method the email must match the one on your SmartCompany Plus account.
Or use your email
Forgot your password?

Want some assistance?

Contact us on: or call the hotline: +61 (03) 8623 9900.