Business WeekEventsSUSA2019

Make Big Talk: SUSA Business Week Fall 2019

By September 14, 2019 No Comments
Undergraduate student, Sadia Alao 20′, writes about ‘Big Talk by Kalina Silverman’ held on Sept. 10, 2019, hosted by SUSA


“When is the last time you saw the world changed, and what inspired that?”

“Where do you find peace?”

“What do you hope to achieve in 5 years?”

What if we skipped the small talk and made meaningful connections? This is the mission of “Big Talk,” a social experiment and video project founded by Kalina Silverman 4 years ago. Her freshman year at Northwestern University was filled with parties and social events, and yet she still felt an unwavering feeling of loneliness. She realized that in all the events and gatherings she would go to, the conversations were surface-level and superficial.

“What’s your major?”

“What year are you?”

“Where are you from?”

This is the universal college student’s go-to for small talk.

Kalina wanted to challenge this, so she began asking big questions. These questions have taken her all around the globe where she now gives lectures and teaches people how to “make Big Talk” in different environments and cultures. She received her degree in Broadcast Journalism from Northwestern University and just returned from a year working as a Fulbright Research Scholar in Singapore studying ways to use Big Talk to establish empathy across cultures.

During this semester’s SUSA Business Week, Kalina taught UMD students how to create meaningful connections while networking.

These are the 3 main ingredients to Big Talk:

  1. Ask open-ended questions.
  2. Ask questions that elicit stories.
  3. Ask questions that are universal and anyone can answer.

So instead of asking an employer what they do, now ask why they do what they do and it will elicit of a myriad of mission-driven conversations.

The night ended in students getting into Big Talk discussion groups and asking each other worthwhile questions. My group, in particular, decided to answer “What life lesson do you wish everyone was taught in school?”

Answers ranged from learning self-resilience to learning how to be yourself. I proposed a class on self-care and mental health. After the conversations, we realized we didn’t even know each others majors or years. We didn’t need to in order to connect.

Big Talk was a powerful event that opened doors for impactful exchanges and can be utilized for conversations in and out of professional settings.

Here’s how you can bring Big Talk back to your school or workplace:

  • Prompt professors to answer a Big Talk question about themselves when sending mass emails to students. Leadership should be accessible!
  • Post a Big Talk question each week in a public space and ask students to write their responses on the board as they walk by.
  • Highlight an individual or group in a newsletter, email, or blog post where the person answers Big Talk questions.
  • Host a Big Talk orientation activity for students or club members. 

Join the Big Talk movement