While some people are superconnectors that genuinely enjoy networking, others find making small talk with a room full of total strangers intimidating. Rachel Gillett, a multimedia journalist and editorial assistant at FastCompany.com, offers the following tips to improve your networking skills before your next big industry event:

  • Practice on your co-workers over lunch or coffee. It is a low-pressure way to master the art of small talk and to hone your listening skills.
  • Reach out to a long lost friend. Reconnecting is easier than developing a new relationship, and will instill greater confidence in your networking abilities.
  • Attend a casual group networking event, such as a local Meetup. You will discover how easy it is to strike up conversations individuals who share the same interests or hobbies.
  • At events, people tend to congregate in groups of ones, twos and threes. Approach the “ones,” who may be shy and will welcome your initiative. In a group of “twos,” look for people standing in an open V formation. This body language indicates that they are open to others joining their conversation. Make sure to ask permission to join the conversation, rather than just bursting in. In groups of three or more, look for individuals arranged in a U formation, rather than a closed-off O formation.