I know we sell stuff - the channel, our airtime, our personalities,
our lives - but why can’t our employers fully prepare us with a handy
fact sheet on small talk?
We spend our days on the phone, we e-mail our contacts endlessly. But
there are only so many ways can you say: ’What did you do last night?’,
’What did you do at the weekend?’, or ’What are you doing next
This is made twice as difficult if you have a hangover. Then you have to
spend the first half of the conversation cringing in mute horror while
being told exactly what you did at the IAA Ball, and how funny you were
when you tried to teach the president to breakdance ...
Of course, it can go the other way. Many times I’ve called an agency and
got so embroiled in small talk that I forgot why I called in the first
The worst occasion, however, was when I telephoned an agency person to
give him some research information. The contact was pretty depressed as
he had just lost a client, despite supplying them with a lot of data and
So I tried to cheer him up with a little humour. This seemed to work,
until I said I bet he wished he was outside in the sun with a nice, cool
pint (it was the height of the summer). He told me he didn’t drink.
’Oh’, I said. ’You’re some sort of health freak.’
’No’ he replied, ’I’m an alcoholic.’
Needless to say, we haven’t got them on air.