Thursday, November 13, 2008

How to improve your conversation skills at a cocktail party (or prove yourself a first class geek)

Now, I know most Dr. Helen readers are just dying to impress others at a cocktail party by boring people with a bunch of facts. But seriously, do you ever wish you had more facts at your fingertips about politics, science, religion or the arts? If so, check out this new book, Know It All: The Little Book of Essential Knowledge. It's a nifty little compact book that has facts and information on just about every topic and is designed to help you hold up your end of a conversation at a cocktail party or just in general. I was never one to give a damn about whether I impressed others at a soiree, but you can use the information for other reasons, such as to help your kids with their homework or just to answer their questions about how the world works.

There are quizzes on all the material that help you remember what you've learned. For example, questions in a section on "The Structure of Society" include: "What was the title of Thomas More's most famous work?" [Utopia] or "Name the man who is widely viewed as 'the father of economics'" [Adam Smith]. Now, many of you intelligent Dr. Helen readers will already know the answers to these questions and others like it, but there may be some poor souls out there in need of help.

If so, it would make a great gift or stocking stuffer for someone who would like a quick reference on practical knowledge or even for yourself to brush-up on facts from certain areas that you may have long ago forgotten.



Blogger Jacob said...

I have to wonder if those kinds of books aren't more trouble than they are worth.

I think everyone can agree that it is better to actually be educated than to seem educated. Reading these kinds of books might give you some interesting trivia, but wouldn't your time be better spent reading Utopia or Wealth of Nations?

9:36 AM, November 13, 2008  
Blogger Cham said...

Cocktail parties are a quagmire. Nobody wins on a trip to Snootitown, where people are trying to impress others with their brainpower.

Here is my cocktail party recipe for success. Don't take a coat, arrive at the apex of the party. Ask the bartender to fill a glass halfway with club soda and add a slice of lemon, this gives the impression you are drinking an alcoholic beverage and you've been there awhile. Walk over to the hostess and thank her for a lovely party and tell her that you are having a great time. Say hello to 3 people you know. Make your way to the back of the room then scoot out the back door. Elapsed time: 15 minutes and nobody is insulted because you didn't show up.

This way you can be in bed by 10PM and be bright eyed and bushytailed for the next day. No book reading required.

9:45 AM, November 13, 2008  
Blogger GawainsGhost said...

Well, I don't think most people at cocktail parties are interested in trivial pursuits, but this book does look interesting if only for its edification value.

The key to coming off well at parties, be they office or cocktail, is not in demonstrating your vast knowledge of trivia but in telling good stories, especially those that make people laugh.

In that regard, one of my most favorite books is Amarillo Slim in a World of Fat People. It tells the life story of the greatest proposition gambler that ever lived, and it contains a wealth of conservation topics, as well as friendly bets to make at parties.

You know, once Amarillo Slim said that he could hit a golf ball for a mile. Someone said, "Oh, Slim, no one can hit a golf ball for a mile."

"I can hit a golf ball for a mile."

"I'll bet you can't."

"How much you want to bet?"


"Okay, I'll bet you $10,000 I can hit a golf ball for a mile."

Then this guy gets on the phone to all these other gamblers and tells them that Amarillo Slim is betting $10,000 that he can hit a golf ball for a mile, and every one of them wants in on the action. Pretty soon, Slim's got 30 people betting $10,000 each that he can't hit a golf ball for a mile.

So they all get together, and Slim puts them on a plane and flies up north to a frozen lake. He sets a golf ball down on the ice, hits it with a club and watches as it slides off into the distance.

"Looks like a mile to me," he says, then pockets $300,000 and goes home.

Now that's a great story to tell at a party, and there are many others. There's also inside info on good bets to make, like how to set three sugar cubes on a table and predict which one a fly will land on. But you'll have to read the book to find out the secret on how to win big on that one.

10:13 AM, November 13, 2008  
Blogger OldTexan said...

I read a lot of eclective stuff and I seem to remember a lot of strange stuff that sounds improbable. Of course I used to like to sound off about strange stuff from time to time and amaze and astound those around me.

Then one day my grown up son zinged me in the best way. He spoke out rather lound, "OK Cliff Clavin, we know you are usually right about that stupid stuff but do we really want to know that stuff, Cliff?"

Since then I have tried to tone things down and that is not a bad thing for me to do. I still like to answer questions when asked but, I no longer have to bring up my interesting (to me) topics.

10:26 AM, November 13, 2008  
Blogger dienw said...

I learned my conversation skills by misspending my post Grad school years in a coffee shop. The best rule by far is to find common ground and let the conversation go from there with a scattering of questions: don't be the center of the conversation: be humble and gracious. With this method you can hold a conversation with almost any one: you might even learn something.

At a party, be prepared for brief polite encounters that will be short and interrupted. Also, be aware that there will be a considerable amount of networking going on: the higher on the totem pole you are the more people will want to talk to you; so be prepared to be unconsciously snubbed if you are not as important as you think you are.

11:45 AM, November 13, 2008  
Blogger Marsha Loftis said...

I've never been invited to a cocktail party. I have been to Christmas parties and Birthday parties. Mostly I stand around and listen to what other people have to say.

12:55 PM, November 13, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

As far as cocktail cocktail parties go, I feel cham nailed it.

I agree with GawainsGhost. I'd much rather speak with someone interesting.

Do I really give a crap if someone read Utopia? No. I give a crap about what their personal idea of Utopia is.

One must be prepared to have a lively and friggin' civil discussion about it.

3:17 PM, November 13, 2008  
Blogger Soccer Dad said...

I thought that you just say Ah, Bach.

5:35 PM, November 13, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

cham ftw. srsly.

3:09 PM, November 14, 2008  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep. Be the last to arrive and the first to leave. Everyone who doesn't already know you wonders who you are, where you've been, and what do you know that they don't, for there to be somewhere more important to be.

7:22 PM, November 14, 2008  
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