Eight Tips for Effective Cocktail Conversation

by, Etiquette International

"A gossip is one who talks to you about others; a bore is one who talks to you about himself; and a brilliant man is one who talks to you about yourself." (Lisa Kirk)

Listen before jumping into a conversation. You may not want to deal with those people.

Make eye contact with one person in the group, smile and listen until they include you.

Introduce yourself when there is a pause in the conversation.

If you have something relevant to add to a group's conversation, jump in, then introduce yourself afterward.

To initiate a conversation, you can talk about the situation, talk about yourself, or talk about the other person.

Avoid taboo topics:

  • off-color or discriminatory jokes
  • personal relationships and sexual proclivities
  • health
  • diets
  • personal tragedies
  • cost of anything personal
  • income
  • controversial topics like politics or religion
  • free advice from professionals

Don't blend; circulate. Spend five to seven minutes with each person or group.

Always remember to close a conversation. Shake hands and take your leave.


Etiquette International is a full-service business etiquette firm that works with organizations that want their people to be more effective and have greater impact in all they do. Since 1989, Etiquette International has advised the corporate, multinational, and private arenas on American and international protocol, business etiquette, and entertaining.

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