Overhead shot of a crowd of people making small talk at a networking event.
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How to get better at small talk so you can survive networking

8 Mar 2019

There are only so many times you can trade remarks on the vagaries of the weather before one of you turns to dust. Use these tips to help you navigate the minefield that can be small talk.

Look, we get it, you’re just trying to hover around the appetiser spread while you wait for the catering staff to refill the mini bacon cheese sliders. You’re keeping your eyes fixed on the exposed brick accent wall as the security lanyard you were handed on the way in the door pendulum-swings around your neck.

All of a sudden, someone is asking you where you work. You have been caught in the net of small talk and you feel, on a cellular level, the desperate need to escape.

People rarely enjoy idle chit-chat. You’d be forgiven for immediately wanting to run away, plug in your headphones, make a beeline for an exit or employ any number of methods to ensure a more solitary existence. You don’t always have the energy to get to know someone, even on a superficial level.

Yet there’s a lot of evidence to suggest that avoiding small talk will make you feel isolated. The world we live in, despite its interconnectedness, is in many ways a lonelier place than what preceded it. People feel the need for socialisation to varying degrees, but every human craves connection at some level. No one is an island.

While you may not think that talking to a taxi driver or striking up a conversation at a networking event will benefit you, you’re closing yourself off to experience by not doing so. You never know who you could meet.

You could encounter a new perspective that broadens your understanding of life and all its confusing contours. You may even have a fateful meeting that could change the course of your life, be that professionally or personally.

So yes, torturous as it may be, allowing a bit more small talk in your life could do you the world of good. That doesn’t solve the issue of it being, in a word, difficult. Fortunately, On Stride has created this infographic with some excellent tips for sharpening your small-talk skills.

small talk infographic

Click to enlarge. Infographic: On Stride

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Eva Short
By Eva Short

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic, specialising in the areas of tech, data privacy, business, cybersecurity, AI, automation and future of work, among others.

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