Talking tiny can be tricky. There are so many pitfalls to watch out for: uncomfortable pauses, forgetting names, the fear of introducing yourself. The good news is that while some people may be more naturally gifted with small talking, for most people it’s an acquired skill. That means with a little discipline and an ounce of courage, you can be a solid small talker in no time.

Come prepared. Before you hit your next networking event, come prepared with a few specific questions that will get people gabbing. Bolster your list by thinking of a few general topics that would be good to bring up. Try to remember what the host’s interests are, or guess what the other attendees interests might be, and have topics that relate to their likes and hobbies.

Beat them to the punch. Don’t stand around waiting for someone to talk to you. Go up to people and be the first to say hello. Smile, introduce yourself, and make solid eye contact as you converse. Repeat the person’s name often to help remember it. If you know you have met the person before, feel free to remind them of your name.

Take it nice and slow. It’s easy to speed up when you feel nervous, so make a point of slowing down and going easy. The more you slow down, the more relaxed and natural you will feel. Make good eye contact, and listen more than you speak. If you feel stuck or your mind draws a blank, don’t panic. Rely on one of your trusty questions and get the other person gabbing instead.

Have a partner. If there is someone you’re dying to meet, find out if you know anyone in common. It’s better to have someone they already know and respect introduce you to them. Knowing someone else at the event can also help you meet new people as you branch out to meet their connections and they get to know yours.

T o stop reading and start getting your listening skills going, give this quirky video a view. It even involves a puppet, and while it’s fun, it also gives some good tips on small talk. The hints about discussing the weather and how to hand out a business card are especially good.

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