1. People & Relationships
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

How to Work a Room

Tips for Networking and Making Small Talk

By

Going to events and activities is one way to make new friends, but it's also something people seem to dread. Even the most gregarious people might struggle with making small talk from time to time. If that sounds like you, here are some tips that can help you enter a room with confidence and chat with others like an old pro.

Use the Power of Positive Thinking

success.jpg
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you're worried that you are going to enter a party and have no one to talk to, you're not alone. Many of us feel this way a time or two. The way to overcome this is to think positively about the event without putting too many expectations on yourself. Instead of thinking that you won't know anyone at the event, for example, envision yourself talking to one really interesting person. Rather than worrying that you will become tongue-tied during small talk, picture yourself chatting away with someone as if you two were long lost friends.

Positive thinking has been shown to aid in stress management, which can help you conquer your nerves. This, in turn, will help you attract people to you more easily.

Practice Making Small Talk

Have you ever seen someone easily walk into a room and chat with new people as if it were effortless? You can do the same thing. The more you make small talk, the better you will be at navigating conversation. If you don't get to many networking events, you can still practice small talk in your everyday life. Chat with the people you see while you wait in line or meet as you shop. Practicing in small doses can make a big difference when you do attend an event and need to chat with people for several hours.

Tips on Networking

Small Talk
Jamie Grill/Getty Images

Many experts, like hypnotherapist and author Ali Binazir, offer tips on how to network and be approachable. Binazir offered a few tricks to keep in mind in a recent Forbes article. Among them:

  • Arrive early. This gives you a chance to greet people as they enter, rather than walking in a room with several people already engaged in conversation.

  • Be prepared to talk about the headlines of the day. I'll add my input here to include a mix of celebrity and "serious" news items. You never know who you are going to talk to and which type of news they might want to chat about more.

  • Stand in a high-trafficked area, such as the bar or near the restrooms. This allows people to come to you rather than you walking up to them.

 

Approach People Who Are Alone

wall-flower-business-person.jpg
Image courtesy of imagerymajestic / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The natural tendency when networking is to try and work your way into an existing conversation. But rather than approaching a group of people who are already chatting away about something, look for others in the room who are also alone. Finding another kindred soul that is looking to connect can make it that much easier to strike up a conversation.

Forgive Yourself for Social Gaffes

Text Etiquette
Rachel Weill/Getty Images

We all goof up and say stupid things sometimes. Rather than beat yourself up over it, realize that you are human. Forgive your mistakes and do better next time. Even if you repeatedly make the same mistake over and over, try to learn from it until you become more accomplished at small talk. It doesn't mean that you'll ever be perfect, because no one is! But instead of letting social gaffes hold you back from trying again, shake it off as a typical part of networking. Like anything in life, learning to easily make conversation with strangers takes time and practice.

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.