If, like me, you dread having to network, take solace in the knowledge that most people hate networking, even those who seem to effortlessly command a room.

The reality is that meeting new people is draining, especially in a work situation. You need to be able to approach strangers, be aware of your body language, try to sound clever – it’s a lot of sustained effort for a continuous amount of time.

To make things easier for you, we are collating a list of tips to help you with the art of chit chat. Yes, chit chat.

You might think that making small talk is easy, however this largely depends on the other person in the conversation. If you are trying to engage and ending up with one word answers, the exchange will be excruciating.

The key is to be prepared:

  1. Read the news. Take 10 minutes during the day to bone up on key general happenings in your city whether its politics, health, new developments – whatever is topical. This is generally always a good ice breaker ‘did you see what’s going on with…’
  2. Note the key people who will be in the room with you. Sometimes the introvert in the corner is the keynote speaker – knowing their names will help you with context.
  3. Have one or two intro lines up your sleeve – one for if you are approaching a single person and the other if you are trying to break into a group: ‘Do you mind if I join in’. Most people will say ‘of course’ at which point you can introduce yourself.
  4. Arrive prepared with answers to questions you will inevitably get asked like ‘what do you do’, ‘what brought you here today’ ‘how do you know the host’…
  5. Be curious about the other person. Everyone likes talking about themselves, so listen and ask questions.
  6. It’s ok to talk about things you are passionate about or like to do in your spare time. Ask the other person ‘what do you like to do in your spare time’ or ‘have you travelled anywhere interesting lately (pre-covid!)’
  7. Pop culture is also a great ice breaker – talk about TV shows you are watching, books you are reading or gossip about celebrities.
  8. Embrace silence but don’t let it drag on. There is nothing worse than having to look around the room for more than a few seconds. It’s tough to come back from that.
  9. If you do need to leave a conversation (for any reason), just excuse yourself. Mention that you are heading to the bar or the bathroom, or go ‘I’m sorry but I spotted a friend I wanted to say hi too, it was lovely meeting you, perhaps we can connect on LinkedIn?’
  10. And when all else fails talk about the weather. It might be boring and cliche but it’s something we all have an opinion on.

Lastly practice in less daunting situations, maybe at the pub or a social situation. Make small talk with your barista or a sales assistant – you can’t go wrong. And even if you do, there is no one to judge you.