AHHH, the dreaded networking event, or office party where you don’t know anyone but yet you have to make small talk and seem interested. How about if instead of faking being interested you actually were interested? Make a game of trying to find out about as many people at the event as you can. Use great listening skills and pay attention to what they have to say, also ask open ended questions to keep the conversation flowing. You may be shocked what you can learn about someone in that brief conversation. Think before you reply, make sure you think about your response in your head first. A pause is always a great way to connect with someone.
Sometimes it’s helpful to repeat the last thing the other person said. This will help to keep the conversation moving. Take something they’ve said and turn that into something you are ready to talk about. Maybe it’s something you have in common with them or a similar situation.
Always remember to keep the conversations light and watch your body language. Keep your body open, don’t cross your arms or look away distracted. Also make sure you’re not on your cell phone, give the person your full attention. If for some reason it’s not going well, please exit gracefully. You can always say something like ‘please excuse me, I need to get something to eat I haven’t eaten all day’, a restroom break, you need to check in with someone that just arrived, just end it in a way that doesn’t seem like you are running away. There will always be awkward conversations, the key is being prepared on how to handle them properly.