Have you ever asked someone what they thought about the weather? Or how their weekend was going? Maybe you asked just to fill the silence, or because you really wanted to know their answer. We’ve all engaged in small talk, one of the most crucial skills in hospitality.
What exactly is small talk and why do hospitality professionals need to master it?
What is small talk and why is it important?
Simply put, small talk is a social skill. It’s a quick, informal and polite conversation usually about nothing too important.
Hospitality professionals can use this to gauge the mood of a room or guest. If the guest answers in short, uninformative responses, they likely don’t want to talk, are in a rush, or having a bad day. On the flip side, if the guest answers excitedly or in depth, they are willing to stay for a bit and have a conversation.
Small talk can also serve as the foundation for building trust. Slowly, during these conversations you form a relationship and get to know more about a person. If you ask a guest while they’re checking in what they are looking forward to during their stay, they might mention going to a specific restaurant for a celebration and you can then send a bottle of champagne to their room, or a cake for an extra personal touch. Or maybe they mention their going to a sporting event and you can suggest a local sports museum to visit based on their love of sports.
Perhaps instead, a guest mentions that they’ve had a rough day and just want to sleep so you can make sure they’re in a room that doesn’t currently have any neighbors.
These small interactions can make a guest feel more at ease and welcomed, leading to a repeat guest, who may even leave a good review for you specifically.
6 Conversation Starters
As mentioned before, small talk starts as a question or statement about something unimportant. This doesn’t mean the whole conversation needs to be unimportant, but you never want to purposefully incite a negative feeling with small talk.
Here are a few conversation starters to keep in your back pocket.
Start a conversation by saying something like “It’s really raining cats and dogs out there” or “What a great weekend to be in town, it’s supposed to be sunny and warm every day!”
2. Current events
Talk about something interesting going on in your town or state – remember not to mention anything political or controversial – “Did you happen to see the hockey game last night?” “Any plans to check out the local art show while you’re in town” “I’m not sure if you’d be interested but Stephen King is in town for a book signing”
Ask if they have a favorite cuisine that can lead to you offering some local restaurants, or suggesting a specific dish to order from room service
If the guest asks you about the fitness facilities, or outdoor running areas you can start a conversation from there, “Have you been a runner for long?” or maybe they are holding a book and you’ve read books by the same author and can say something like “Have you read her latest novel….”
To be noted, never comment on someone’s physical appearance, like weight, skin, etc… you never know what someone is self conscious about or if they are going through something that has an effect on their appearance, but you can compliment something they are wearing or a haircut.
Start a conversation by asking them if they’ve watched any good shows or movies lately, or if they have any podcast recommendations. Maybe they mention they’re in town for a concert and you like the artist they’re seeing.