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Turning Small Talk Into Big Business

Turning Small Talk Into Big Business

By Christine Condon

When you're on a plane, they always tell you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before you help someone else. In her motivational speech to Ellevate Network for professional women, Susan Dench says women tend to advocate for others first and put themselves second. And if that’s the case, who’s advocating for you?

Entrepreneur Susan Dench recently addressed Ellevate Network to share the advantages of “connectworking.” If you are the best kept secret in your organization, now is the time to start sharing your talents with others.

Seventy-seven percent of women think hard work and long hours--not connections, self-promotion or politicking--will secure their advancement, according to the Harvard Business Review Report. But this is exactly what it takes. Most CEOs and business owners consider their most important skill to be their ability to sell: themselves, their ideas and their viewpoints.

Dench encourages people to think of this form of selling--and making personal connections--as a lifestyle opportunity. Attend conventions, seminars, open houses, product launches, user groups or panel discussions to meet new people and learn new things. You will open up new avenues, come in contact with role models, broaden your knowledge base and expand your world.

The best way to think about “Connectworking” is to employ the term ELEVATE. This should be easy to remember for Ellevate Network members!


The primary rule of engagement is to develop a plan to be in a room with the right people at the time. To do this, “Make a plan based on your goals and personal brand--and seek out connections,” says Dench. A brand is an experience that communicates values and emotions. What do people gain by knowing you? Do you understand their strategies and goals? Do you find ways to add value? When someone interacts with you what sort of experience will they have?

Your brand equity is about what you know that others don’t. Develop advocates and cheerleaders, and reciprocate by helping them in return.

Developing a pitch is essential to communicating about your brand. Your pitch is about starting a relationship. Dench says, “Taking the essence of who you are and whittling that down to just a few sentences is really difficult and time consuming. Think about what it is you want to convey about yourself and about your brand. Make it conversational.” How would you define yourself at a dinner party? Be genuine.


Be present and give people your full attention. Make the person you’re talking to feel like he or she is the most important person in the room. Dench also advises that people do a “digital detox.” Don’t just text and email. Make a call or set up a time to talk to people face to face. That’s how you build personal connections.

Attending events should be part of your plan. Have your pitch ready and tailored to the people who you will meet at the event. Make an effort to speak to the organizers or panelists and tell them what you hope to get out of the event.


If you’re not sure how to get a conversation going at a professional event, Dench recommended that you ask open-ended questions and give inviting responses when interacting with people: “What are you excited about working on?” “Do you have any interesting trips coming up?”

Then get to the most important questions of all: “Is there any way I may be of service to you with that?” “Do you have any ideas for me?” “Is there anyone else I should talk with?”

Share ideas, thoughts, contacts and referrals. Be generous about your resources and in offering information.


Become the connective hub in your office. Put yourself at the center--at the intersection of smart people doing important things. You will add value and become a “power connector,” a term coined by author Judy Robinett.


Dench advises us to “Be positive, confident, enthusiastic and sincere at all times. You may not be able to control what happens to you but you can control how you react to it.”


This is earned by merit, by over-delivering, by having integrity and by maintaining a personal connection. Dench says, “Become the trusted resource your colleagues and clients need to be successful. What can I do today to be valuable to my customers/boss/coworkers/community/family/friends/spouse) for which I will not expect anything in return?” The law of reciprocity comes into play here.


Make sure you stay top of mind within your network. Follow up with people later, comment on a personal accomplishment and thank them.

These actions ALL lead to a successful outcome that elevates your connectworking efforts. Remember the power of your voice. Elevate and advance your career by bringing the best of who you are to work every day.


Continue learning with this Ellevate Playbook.: