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How to master the art of "small talk" with these 8 genius hacks.

Image via 500 Days of Summer/Fox Searchlight Pictures

We’ve all been there. You walk into a party or a work event and either stand around waiting for someone to take pity on you and start a conversation, or you make a beeline for the toilets to waste some time and figure out a game plan.

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Mamamia TV host Shelly Horton has been attending events, functions and parties her entire career. She could easily have a riveting conversation about dirt if she needed to. Which is exactly why we hit her up for her best small talk tips that even the biggest introvert can find some solace in.

Mamamia senior editor, Shelly Horton. Source: Supplied.

1. Avoid asking a direct question.

The biggest piece of advice Shelly can offer when it comes to effective small talk?

"Don't ask anyone a direct question about their job, their kids, their house etc. Instead, ask them, 'So what's been keeping you busy?'. This avoids you hitting a sensitive subject and allows the other person to direct the conversation to what they really want to talk about."

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2. Avoid the awkward, "have we met?" line.

If you're unsure whether you've met someone before or not, use the phrase, "Great to see you," rather than "Nice to meet you". That way, it could be interpreted as being either the first time you've met or a follow up meeting. Excellent for people with a terrible memory.

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3. Don't be scared to join groups.

If you walk into a room and don't know anyone, rather than panic and head to the loo, Shelly says approaching a group of three or more people is key. If you try to join a couple, you risk feeling like you're intruding on a conversation. A group of three or more is a lot easier. (Post continues after gallery).

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4. Use the drinks table as a conversation opener.

It's a wonderful ice breaker which allows you to offer people a drink (cue: introductions afterwards). Shelley suggests light hearted conversation like, "Wow, it's really cold tonight, definitely red wine whether".

5. Be a master of introduction.

If you're hosting the party, Shelly says the best thing you can do for your guests is to introduce them with their name, along with a common interest. That way, you've given people a starting point for conversation which allows you to move away and greet other guests. (Post continues after gallery).

6. Don't try to be best friends with everyone immediately.

Use a gently, gently approach to conversation with strangers and don't go straight for intrusive questions. Avoid anything which might be a sensitive topic until the other person brings it up and makes it clear they are comfortable to talk about it.

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7. Mingle, mingle, mingle.

Shelly says you should always avoid sticking to one person like glue for the duration of the party. It only makes them uncomfortable and monopolises their time. If you find yourself stuck with a clinger, there are two ways to handle the situation.

- Excusing yourself to use the bathroom or go to the bar offers a polite way out, but Shelly also suggests simple departing the conversation on a positive note by saying something like, "It's been so nice talking to you and I'm so glad I have your business card. If you don't mind, there is such and such who I'd love to catch up with also".

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8. Help other people out in the name department.

To avoid awkward meetings where it's obvious someone's forgotten your name, or where someone's failed to introduce you, always introduce yourself first. That way you're not leaving the other person scrambling to remember if you've met before or not.