Small Talk: A Critical Networking Skill
While you might not enjoy small talk it is important when you attend organized networking events. And in some cultures, engaging in small talk before discussing business matters is a social requirement. If you attempt to get right down to business, your dealings will most likely end quickly and on a sour note.
Therefore, it is in your best interests to be prepared for any type of networking situation that you find yourself in. Always have a few topics at the ready that are interesting to you. Choose topics you are comfortable talking about, and do not focus your entire discussion on yourself or your profession.
Read the newspaper before attending a networking event and don’t skip the business, finance, or international news sections. Read up on the latest trends in your particular industry. Know facts and trivia about your hometown, current city, and sports teams from both. You should have enough interesting and relevant topics to keep you chatting for at least a few hours.
Do brush up on current events so that you are knowledgeable and interesting. Don't study current events so that you can be a know-it-all at the event. If you do the latter, you will come across as annoying and find yourself standing alone throughout most of the event. If you are really uncomfortable initiating conversation - or keeping up the flow yourself - ask questions and let others do the talking. The majority of people enjoy talking about themselves and things they know about.
Finally, try to have fun. Networking is all about meeting new people and expanding your circle of contacts. Make it an enjoyable experience, not a stressful one.