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#Noticing Neighbors Skip the Small Talk

Skip the Small Talk creates events that are welcoming, genuine, and allow attendees to skip all that small talk and connect right away. In the safety of a room hosted by a Facilitator, attendees are guided through a series of questions to get to know each other on a deeper level. Their next event is coming up at Bear Necessities Coffee Bar on March 2nd, and it supports authentic community building in an inclusive, no-judgment environment. To talk about the Kansas City Chapter, I got to sit down with Rachell Weiss to hear about what it’s like to facilitate the events.

Hayley: I was talking to Spencer at Bear Necessities about an event that you all just hosted and one that is potentially coming up, it sounds like. So could you explain Skip the Small Talk and what your mission is as an organization?

Rachell: Yeah, so Skip the Small Talk is just about creating human connection. We have a structured format where people come in and they get a partner. We give them a question prompt and they talk, but the prompt is geared so they can skip the small talk. They are more complex questions—you really have to think, and be introspective, and be vulnerable to share with the people that you're interacting with. Which, in one way, is really safe because you don't know who you're talking to, but in another way, you are talking to a stranger. So people end up connecting on a much deeper level than your typical bar scene. It's a great way to meet people, find friends, and build connections.


That's such a great point that it's a deeper way to connect than you typically would. There's that whole stage where you're like, all right, I'm putting a little something out there, and seeing if they are reciprocating. It's the whole dance. There's something about just being willing to open up and be vulnerable like that. That's so interesting.


Yeah. Actually, in the event, we always start out by giving a couple of norms so people know what to expect. It’s a way of saying, “Can I set the ground rules?” One of the things we talk about is to err on the side of sharing more, and to really lean into that vulnerability. Because the more you do, the more you'll actually walk away with after the event. When we share that in the beginning, it sets the stage a bit more. Then they do the first question, and we actually host a poll before we start the second question. Hayley: What are you asking? Rachell: We have everyone close their eyes and we ask them, think about what you’ve shared. Like, are you content with what you shared? Do you wish you would have shared more? Do you wish you would have shared less? Hayley: What do you usually see at that part? Rachell: Really, it kind of goes across the board that people feel good about what they shared. So then we ask them about their partner: Are you content with what they shared? Do you wish they would have shared more? Do you wish they would have shared less? It's my favorite thing to do because no one ever says I wish my partner would have shared less.

We use that to reinforce the idea: When we tell you to share more, we actually mean share more. Because if you were sitting there thinking, oh, I probably way over shared in that first conversation—no one actually wished you would have shared less, because you get that first little dose of vulnerability. Once reinforced there, people feel much more comfortable. They know this is a safe space, and I can share more, and I can open up. It is a skill that people really have to hone in on, and they have to practice.


You said that's after the first question. So you do that, and you check in with everyone. How do you see the room change? I'm sure you've seen this so many times. From that first question, to down the road when they've had more questions, how do you see the room change?


It's amazing, it is one of the funniest things to watch. So I always joke with them. I try to be a fun facilitator and say like, “I know how you guys are going to behave.” On the first questions, I’ll try and get their attention, and they're all quiet right away to listen really attentively. Then we get to the last three questions, and it's a pain to get their attention because they are so engaged in their conversation and just want to keep talking. So getting their attention is always really fun by the end because they are much more open, and much more relaxed.

You feel a little bit of anxiety when you first show up. Like people are kind of tense, they don't really know what to expect. So we're going around just talking with people, and trying to help them feel comfortable. By the end, they couldn't care less that we're there. They're ready to talk to each other and it's really fun. It's interesting as facilitators, because all of the facilitators actually did a meet-up in Boston this past December. We got to meet all these other facilitators and do our own mini Skip the Small Talk, because we don't get to participate! Hayley: That makes so much sense!


We're always running it! So we did one, and it was hilarious because our founder was actually trying to get our attention and we were like: stop, we don't want to do this! Please let us keep talking. We're good. And we laughed because it's like, this is what this is.


There's something about participating like that. To see it from that perspective, and be able to come back to facilitating. I don't know, maybe you know one extra thing about how to make the room feel safer more quickly? What are some of the things that as facilitators you guys do to help encourage a safe environment and help people feel safe?


Yeah. So safety and inclusivity is huge for Skip the Small Talk. We do attract a wide variety of individuals—especially from marginalized communities. We see a huge population, which is awesome and we love it. That's one of the things that we talk about in the beginning when I do the ground rules: If there's anything we can do to help you feel more safe, let us know. We want you to feel comfortable, and we want you to feel like you can be vulnerable in this space—and a lot of it is giving permission to be human.

You don't think about it, but when we state it, it gives that permission. If you really have to go to the bathroom in the middle of the conversation, go. If you had a really intense conversation and you need to sit out for a round, sit out for a round. If you are out of extroverted energy and it’s halfway through the event, it is totally fine to leave. Hayley:

That’s such a nice thing, to hear that you say it out loud.


Like, be aware of what your needs are and it's okay to be human. We really lay that foundation there, and then we're also there as a resource to help. One of the other things we talk about is sharing contact information. So this is something that we get feedback on that a lot of people love: We tell everyone there are little slips of paper on the table and say that if you're having a really great conversation, you are welcome to share your contact information if you want to continue after the event. But please do not ask anyone for their contact information. Because when you ask someone for their contact information, sometimes people feel like they have to, and feel awkward saying no. So by sharing your contact information, the ball is in their court. If you want to reach out to me, great. If you don't, it's okay, no big deal. It allows you to put yourself out there, but you're not putting someone else on the spot, and people really like that.


That is so interesting. Maybe it takes out a barrier for people that are thinking about attending, but then they're like, I don't want it to turn into something where I feel pressured. Or hit on. Wow.


The event really is what you make of it. So some people come in and they want to make a million friends, so they'll give out their contact information to everyone. And other people might just need a break from their regular friend group. So they want to talk to other people, go to the event, and then they leave. There’s room for that.


That's so neat. I'm sure you have confidentiality and want to respect everybody that comes, but are there any specific stories you can share about how you saw it really make a difference in someone's life? Or even in the course of an evening, a time you really saw it make an impact? Rachell:

Absolutely! I can speak in generalities. I do a lot of promoting just on my own as: I'm Rachell, and I'm talking about this event that I'm going to do because the algorithms on social media work based on location. So I will promote on my own, and people will reach out to me and say, “What is this? What kind of thing should I expect?” They ask questions, and there have been people who are really nervous about it and really anxious. They're interested, but there's just a lot of hurdles in their own mind. Like: Well, I couldn't do it for this reason, and maybe not this reason… Through answering their questions, it's like giving them that space to be human and say: Just try! Literally just come and try it, see what you think. If you don't like it after one round, leave. Like, it is totally fine. No one is going to say anything bad about you. Hayley:

I like that. Rachell:

No one will! You're going to be totally fine to leave. But then afterwards, they always message back saying:

Thank you for the encouragement. This was amazing. I didn't really know what to expect, and it was just way better than what I thought it would be.

A resounding thing we hear is no matter who the person was, or what their background was: “I always found something to connect with my partner on.” That's really mind blowing, when you think about it. That you could meet all of these different people, and you always have some connection point or some relation point with them.

What was really cool about being at Bear Necessities, is Spencer was awesome, and he said: “I'm not kicking anyone out. You guys are welcome to stay.” And I came back like, “It's okay to say that there's an end time. Like, you can go home, you can kick us out, it's not a big deal. You usually close at seven, and we started at 7:00. You're done.” It was like 10:00pm, and he told us, “You guys are fine, because people are staying after and talking and interacting.” I do think the coolest part is when you watch people continue those conversations after the event is over. Those are really fun to watch.


I will just share, and I'm sure you’ve talked to him about this, that when I was asking him what the event was. He told me something like: “I was slinging drinks and looking around seeing people deeply connecting, and it was literally my dream. Opening up a coffee shop so that I would see something like this.” So it gives back all around. People want to see conversations like this happening. On that note, do you have an event coming up that we can invite our readers to go to?


Yeah, so we actually have two that are posted, and one that is getting posted right now. So we have one at Bear Necessities on March 2, and then we also have one there in April. I think we chose April 4, and that one is going to get posted. The link should be up soon. Spencer actually picked the date while we were there, so that was really cool. We didn't even have to do follow up. He's like, so now what? When can we get another one? It was so neat.


That's awesome. We're going to definitely be reminding people about that.

This last question is kind of a freestyle, so wherever you want to take it: During your time with the organization, how have you been impacted positively and seen goodness in the community?

Rachell: I love Skip the Small Talk. It's my hobby. I absolutely love it. To give a little bit of background on how I got introduced to it: I was actually traveling for work in December of 2021, and just sitting in my hotel room. I wanted to go out and do something. So I got on Facebook, was looking at events, and I saw a local Skip the Small Talk event. I remember thinking, I have no idea what this is, but I’ll go! So I went to It, and had the most amazing time. I was only in town for two more days and just meeting people and talking was so nice. I've gone to bars and whatnot, trying to connect with people. It all depends on who you sit next to, and how engaging the bartender is. But with Skip the Small Talk, I got to talk to ten people, and I had so much fun. So then I went up to the host afterwards and I was like, this is amazing. Where did this come from? Hayley:

Sure. Rachell:

And the host was actually Ashley, who is the founder, and she was like, “Really? It was just an idea I had, and we're thinking about expanding to other cities, but finding people who like to talk in front of crowds is kind of hard” So I told her, “This is what I do. I'm a corporate trainer. I used to be a teacher. Can we talk?” We ended up connecting afterwards, shared emails and I did an interview to be a facilitator. And at that point, I was like, am I interviewing? This is kind of weird. Like, okay, this would be a job. But I told her I didn't want this to be a job. This is just so fun for me.

I went through her training, which was a bunch of recorded Google Meets that she had done. So that was kind of my first interaction of seeing: This thing is different. This is unique. This is special. And it was. The amount of thought that went into these events was so thorough. Consideration for interacting with different backgrounds, different genders, being more inclusive, being aware of our language—and all of these things of coming in as a human, as a facilitator, but realizing your guests are coming in as humans too.

How do you navigate all of that? The depth and thought that went into it was just really cool. At that point, we were looking for venues, trying to find a place to go, and I told her: “Actually, I do training. This is what I do,I build remote training. Can I turn this into a full training?” She was like, I'm not going to say no!

So I started working on turning all of her content. I reorganized it a little bit. That was kind of my big thing, is that I developed a full facilitator training for them. It ended up becoming something that gave me a sense of purpose last year, because I was laid off twice last year. Hayley: I’m so sorry. Rachell: I work in startups. It's just the reality of working in startups. But every time I was laid off, I got to work on Skip the Small Talk, and I got to build this training and interact with facilitators. It was all so fun to me. Hayley: It sounds like the backend has a really unique feel to it. Rachell: The best word to describe the organization is just wholesome. Everything is so wholesome. I went to the Facilitator getaway, we all got together, and the people are just so genuine. They are just good people who have really good intentions.

And their stories are all the same. Everyone who works for Skip the Small Talk says, “I went to an event, and then I had to figure out how to get involved. They basically weren't going to tell me no.” It's this type of event, it’s really connecting with people. It connects with the guests, with the venues, with the central team—all across the board. They're all just genuinely good people, and you want to be a better person because you're around them.

Keep up with the latest events from Skip the Small Talk through their website, Facebook and Instagram.

All media originally published by Skip the Small Talk via their online platforms.


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