I am a member of leap.club, and I recently attended their leap (af)fair in Delhi. Leap had done a phenomenal job of creating a fun networking event.

While you could take a plus 1 with you, I saw many women had come alone and mingled easily with others they had never met before. Some people I spoke to confessed that they were not usually good at networking but were enjoying themselves at the event.

The organizers had done so many things right – the spaces, the colors, the curated yet informal conversation starters, and the feeling they have instilled in members over the years about being a community. It worked and made leap (af)fair a fun event.

So, what are the takeaways for those who dread networking and find small talk difficult?

It need not be hard. It need not be fake. A little effort and thought can make it fun and even valuable.

Here are some tips for you to engage in small talk and connect with people –

  • Small talk is just that – light, informal conversation. You can talk about what you are sharing in the moment. e.g., What are you looking forward to today? Would you recommend the drink you are holding?
  • Be curious about other people’s experiences. People like talking about themselves. Ask questions about their lives. It can unravel tales of adventure, reflection, advice, and shared interests. Simple expressions like ‘tell me more’ can turn out to be magical phrases.
  • Be fully present with the person you are talking to. Pay attention to what is said verbally as well as non-verbally. Listen for what matters to the person speaking and ask for more. Show the other person you care about what they are saying by offering reflections to move the conversation forward.
  • When asked a question, give more than the bare minimum. Say something meaningful to build on. Instead of saying, “I live in ‘X’ city,” you may say, “I live in ‘X’ city and love the artistic events here, or I enjoy the multicultural vibe here.”  
  • Take opportunities to engage in small talk more often. After all, everything gets easier with practice.

Staying open and curious, asking questions, being a good listener, and not putting too much pressure on yourself will help you through the situation quite well, and you may even learn to like engaging with new people.