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Make small talk big when presenting, selling

Updated: Mar 8, 2021

When it comes to speaking and presenting, the best content often comes from small talk.

Most of the time, idle chatter about sports, weather, traffic serves as conversational filler. But savvy entertainers know there's a lot of interest in pedestrian topics, especially if you stage it well when pitching or doing presentations.

Talk show host, Regis Philbin, who passed away last August, excelled at making big things of life's the little indignities.

Every day for 33 years, Regis used the first 20 minutes of the Live morning show to riff on the horrible traffic, the Mets, those damned computers, visits from your mother-in-law and the kids bringing home stray cats.

He knew that viewers related to the little things. Between Live and Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Philbin logged a stunning 17,000 hours in front of TV cameras--a Guinness World Record.

Philbin's conversational approach to presentations worked in other modalities, as well. He was David Letterman's most frequent guest. It seemed that everyone loved Regis Philbin's version of small talk. Denzel loves the little things, too The new Denzel Washington movie is titled, The Little Things.

It's about a law enforcement official who's trying to catch a bad guy by paying attention to details. Same basic concept.

Aim small, miss small

Here's how to improve your speaking style just by paying proper tribute to the small stuff. You can do this when creating content, chatting up your audience before your talk and by watching the audience as you present. When creating content, be on the lookout for topical issues or entertaining anecdotes. Ideas include:

- What's trending on Twitter

- Non-agitating news items

- Funny bits from late night talk show hosts (always provide attribution)

You can glean conversational bits before your talk by mingling with your audience during coffee breaks and meals: - Ask people what brings them to the program

- Try to find out what happened the last time the group got together - Pay attention to themes

Finally, watch the audience as you speak to them. Be on the lookout for: - Informed people who can contribute to the session

- Puzzled expressions that trigger useful "sidebars"

- Signals that you should slow things down -- or speed things up Watch how I use the titles of two popular chess movies (The Queen's Gambit and Pawn Sacrifice) and a common board game to fashion a leadership lesson on a video for my YouTube channel. (Thanks in advance for clicking that silver bell and subscribing to be notified of new content.)

Good luck and keep me posted on how it goes!

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