Small Talk Practice | English Conversation & Chit Chat at Work

Lesson Overview

Practise small talk with me! In this speaking practice lesson, we’ll practise small talk at work! If office chit-chat scares you, practise simple & friendly conversation with your colleagues.

This is a short speaking practice lesson is designed to give you REAL conversation practice! We will use an English dialogue to practise natural English conversation that happens every day at work! The dialogue is two colleagues talking together; you and me! The conversation topic is perfect for office chit-chat!

To learn about these expressions used in the video, scroll to the end of this blog post!
“Not too bad”
a to-do list
“What are you working on?”
“It comes down to experience.”
“Speaking of (something)”
“In my experience…”
a win-win
(to) get something over the line


Video Transcript
Section 1
Hey there! I’m Emma from mmmEnglish and it is speaking practice time.

You are gonna speak with me in a type of conversation that happens every single day in English. Small talk.

Small talk is an essential social skill and an essential professional skill. Being able to feel comfortable with small talk in a professional situation is a really powerful tool.

It’s going to help you to start conversations with people, build better relationships with your colleagues and also your clients and of course, this leads to new opportunities or to promotions or exciting things for you.

Today’s lesson is a speaking dialogue so we’ll get to practise small talk together. You and then me and then we’ll swap, me and then you.

I just want to take a few seconds here to give a little shout-out to the members of Hey Lady! who are watching today. Hey ladies! It’s great to see you here!

If you haven’t heard yet, Hey Lady! is our online community helping women to succeed in English. We make it easy and safe to meet new speaking partners and give you interesting topics to talk about together.

We have an amazing team of expert English coaches who encourage and support you at every step. It’s the perfect place to practise because you can make mistakes without feeling judged and make real progress even if you don’t have a lot of time to spare.

As long as your English level is intermediate or above then your English is good enough to join the community. And if you sign up today you can experience everything we offer free for ten days. I’ve put the link down in the description below. Make sure you check it out and I hope to see you inside.

If you want to get straight to the conversation practice, head that way (3:55) but before we do that, I want to talk about one of the worst things that you can do in a professional situation is be too stiff, too formal, too serious especially when you’re just hanging out in the office with colleagues.

So even in a professional context, your small talk should still be light and the tone should be positive. Even if you’re feeling really stressed or you’ve got some problems that are making you feel bad, small talk is not the place to raise these.

Hi! How’s your day been?
Not so good. I’m feeling really stressed and overwhelmed.
I just… I don’t really know what to do about it.

No, it’s not a good idea to be so honest and so open in this context because it really does make the other person feel uncomfortable. As harsh as it is, it’s true.

Now I’m not saying don’t raise these issues, they’re important things to talk about but this conversation just needs a separate context, it needs to be prefaced with something like:

  • Hi. I had a couple of things I need to speak with you about today if that’s okay?
  • When you have some time, can I speak with you in private?

So this just helps to set the tone, lets the person know that it’s a serious topic.

But right now let’s get back to light, positive small talk. If a colleague asks you: How’s your day been?

Then you need to answer positively and productively and that is exactly the tone that we’re going to practise using in this dialogue right now.

So you start by asking me about my day and then be ready to respond when I finish.

Not too bad actually. A bit slower than usual so I’ve been able to tick a few things off my to-do list!

What are you working on at the moment?

I don’t know how you could feel excited about such an important presentation. I’d be a nervous wreck!

Hey, speaking of experience, can I ask your advice?

I’m planning to propose a four-day work week to management. There are so many benefits but I know it will be tough to convince them it’s a good idea.

Do you have any advice for how I can make my case?

Definitely. It’s important that they see the change as a win-win, right?

Thanks! I’ll see you around.

Did you notice some new and interesting expressions in that dialogue? I’ve explained them in a little bit more detail over on the mmmEnglish website just for you. So if you’re interested in exploring some of these new expressions the link to mmmEnglish is down in the description below.

But now let’s switch places. So I’ll start this time. You respond.

Hey, how’s your day been so far?

I’ve been working on a presentation for a new client. I’m meeting with them on Friday and I’m pretty excited to share our proposal.

I guess it comes down to experience.

Sure, how can I help?

In my experience, they’ll be looking for real data. Evidence that helps them to see the benefits to the team and to the company.

Exactly! Hey, I’ve got to get back to work now but good luck getting it over the line.

Do you want to listen to me do the whole thing now?

Hey, how’s your day been so far?

Not too bad actually, a bit slower than usual so I’ve been able to tick a few things off my to-do list.

What are you working on at the moment?

I’ve been working on a presentation for a new client. I’m meeting with them on Friday and I’m pretty excited to share our proposal.

I don’t know how you could feel excited about such an important presentation. I’d be a nervous wreck!

I guess it comes down to experience.

Hey speaking of experience, can I ask your advice?

Sure, how can I help?

I’m planning to propose a four-day work week to management. There are so many benefits but I know it will be tough to convince them it’s a good idea. Do you have any advice for how I can make my case?

In my experience, they’ll be looking for real data. Evidence that helps them to see the benefits to the team and to the company.

Definitely. It’s important that they see the change as a win-win, right?

Exactly. Hey, I’ve got to get back to work now but good luck getting it over the line.

Thanks, I’ll see you around!

I hope you enjoyed this lesson and that you had some fun with this small talk conversation practice.

If you want to practise a little more with some similar lessons to this one, check out these two right here.

I’ll see you in there!


Bonus vocabulary in this speaking lesson! 

“I’m not too bad”

‘Not bad’ is an extremely common response to the question “How are you?” It is a relaxed, casual way of saying “I’m good!”

a to-do list

A list of things you have to do

“What are you working on?”

This question is a useful and extremely common one in the workplace. The question invites you to share the projects you are working on or the tasks are you doing at that time.

“It comes down to experience”

‘Come down to (something)’ is a useful phrasal verb that means that something is the most important aspect of a situation. When Emma says “It comes down to experience”, she’s using it as a reason for her confidence and ease in a difficult situation.

Speaking of (something)

Used to introduce something new that you want to say relating to a subject that someone has just mentioned.

If you look at the dialogue, you’ll see that Emma gave her reason for confidence with her presentations is ‘experience’. Then the other Emma took the opportunity to change the direction of the conversation by using this phrase and asking for advice (in other words, experience!)

“In my experience…”

If asked to respond to something with your input based on experience, this is a very useful way to introduce your idea! It helps to explain that you are not just sharing a random thought in the conversation, but you are basing the information based on knowledge or skills you obtained while doing your job.

a win-win

A situation in which everyone benefits.

(to) get (something) over the line 

This expression refers to achieving a goal or completing a task successfully. It is much more common in a professional context rather than a social one, and is often used to express completing a deal or meeting a deadline. [More info about this phrase here]

Links mentioned in the video

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