Better Than Small Talk is a community gathering designed to help people break through the wall of small talk and get into real conversations.
How did this all get started?
Kat Vellos is a facilitator and user experience designer who is passionate about community building. Since 2001, she's been leading community gatherings designed to connect people and foster community. Although introverted, she's not shy. Adronitis* is really real for her, but luckily one of her skills is thinking of solutions to problems.
In 2014, she moved to a new city where she didn't really know anyone. She found that the experience of trying to form a new community came with tons of small talk. That was hard, because while small talk can start a conversation, it rarely leads to anything meaningful, and it's so repetitive — always the same questions. So Kat started making plans to do an event that would get people together and strip away the small talk, while giving them plenty of conversational prompts to ease the pressure of thinking of something to say on the spot.
She knew it would work if people could get together and be supported in cultivating real conversations: connecting with strangers in surprising, authentic, mind-expanding ways.
She created this event because it's something she also wanted to participate in too. She wanted to create something positive that would help her combat her frustration with how long it takes to get to know people deeply. While she finds small talk excruciating, she adores spontaneous, lively, vulnerable, honest conversation about uncommon topics. Kat imagined that other people might feel the same way.
It turns out that other people do feel the same way — all previous Better Than Small Talk events in the Bay Area and Seattle filled up right away and had waiting lists. She was also hired to lead it as a team-building activity for the staff of RadPad in L.A.
Kat continues to offer Better Than Small Talk as a way to foster community, reduce isolation, and inspire more open, authentic connections between people.
n. frustration with how long it takes to get to know someone — spending the first few weeks chatting in their psychological entryway, with each subsequent conversation like entering a different anteroom, each a little closer to the center of the house — wishing instead that you could start there and work your way out, exchanging your deepest secrets first, before easing into casualness, until you’ve built up enough mystery over the years to ask them where they’re from, and what they do for a living.
- a neologism created by John Koenig