Friday, July 10, 2009

Small Talk at Reunions Causing You Grief?

If the thought of going to your high school or college reunion sends you running for cover, then consider this. Everyone changes over the years, so why worry if you’ve put on a little weight or lost some hair? The fact is that high school and college reunions are fun-filled social events that also offer many opportunities to gently network for business with people who share some of your history, and who are eager to hear your updated autobiography.

After years of not seeing old classmates, it’s easy to re-introduce yourself, find out what they do (or did) for a living, what they like to do now for fun, where they spend their time, efforts and money. Tell others the “short highlights” version what you’ve been doing for the last umpteen years with only a passing reference to any bad patches. As you listen and exchange information about your current activities, goals, children, hobbies and other pursuits, be sure to let these people know that you’re still in business and how you can help others achieve their goals.

As you reconnect with old friends and classmates, take mental notes of the people and their adult kids who went into businesses similar to your customers and clients. While these folks may be your target prospects during regular business hours, at the reunion they are old classmates first, and potential customers second. However, once the event is over, you can seek them out like you would any other potential customers.

Topics that Most People Like to Talk About at Reunions

Kids & family, Business, Retirement, Old & new projects, Hobbies, Travel, Personal passions, Old friends, Alumni organizations, Living one’s dream, sports, vacations, fitness, food, outdoor cooking, gardening, home renovations

Here are 7 Ways to Reconnect with Old Friends at Reunions

* Be ready to give a brief answer to "What have you been doing all these years?"
* Ask the person to join you for a cocktail, coffee or snack so you can have more time to talk.
* Reconnect over old interests and forge new connections with new interests.
* Reveal your new dreams and goals so your old friends still know what's important to you.
* Invite old and new friends to get-togethers outside the reunion's official events.
* Exchange more personal (but not too much!) information.
* Say how you are going to remain in contact, and then follow through on your promise.

Here are a few don’ts when you talk to people at reunions:

* Don’t brag about your accomplishments.
* Don’t tell your life story.
* Don’t downplay your business dreams.
* Don’t go into excruciating detail about your business.

How about a few easy opening lines at reunions. Remember it’s not so much what you say, it’s how you say it!

“So tell me, what have you been doing all these years?”
“Hi! I’m …. We were in the same class.”
“Do you know how I can get in touch with …?”
“I see that you live in … What’s it like there?”
“This is my first reunion and is it ever interesting!”
“I can’t begin to imagine how much work it must be to organize a reunion!”
“I found out a genealogy website that helps people find their long-lost relatives.”
“Do you know much about your family genealogy?”
“I’m thinking of organizing a family reunion. Do you know an organization who can help?”

Want to talk business at your reunion? Here are some conversational bridges to business topics.

“I read your bio in the reunion book and saw that you in the … business. I’m looking for someone who does what you do.”
“I’m a journalist. Have you heard any good reunion stories?”
“Do you know a hotel who can give our school a good rate for our upcoming reunion?”
“My oldest daughter is in your field. Do you mind if I give her your number?”
“Since we are in the same business, do you want to get together and compare notes?”
“It never occurred to me how big the reunion business is.”
“I want to create a family cookbook from our reunion. Do you know anyone in the publishing business?”

One more thing: Definitely avoid these “taboo topics”!

* rekindle old arguments * remind others of past indiscretions * gossip about old rivals * make remarks about cosmetic surgery, age, weight, hair (or lack thereof) * ask more than one question about a messy divorce * talk too much about oneself * flirt with an old flame who is happily married * bring up marital problems * tell sad personal stories * criticize the food or reunion organizers

Finally, go to have fun--and that's exactly what will happen! If you have any questions or want suggestions on what to say to a particular person at the reunion, email me at