I’ve gotten better at small-talk by repeating the mantra “Fake it ‘till you make it” and trying to remind myself that the best way to talk to people is to get them to talk about themselves. I try to read the headlines of the newspaper online to make sure I’m not caught off-guard with some new and happening info, and when I do speak up, I allow myself the possibility of being wrong. It helps to care a bit less about what other people think, and to remind myself that there are a lot of things that are pretty cool about me and my experiences, too. But I do still shy away from topics where I don’t feel I’ve got enough info. In those cases, I usually just try to ask more questions in order to keep the conversation rolling.
I don’t feel like a big fake anymore; now, I feel like a shy person who doesn’t know everything but who’s willing to hear more. I drum up my “fake curiosity” and somehow after a few hours I’m through another cocktail reception.
In fact, a couple months ago, I didn’t have the courage to stick around and talk to people, then I turned around and went back, and it started the wheels turning for a great new job opportunity! Totally worth it.