Small talk done right and social faux pas to avoid: Speech consultant & emcee Hafez Nasruddin offers these blunder-proof tips to impress the crowd at your next dinner party or networking event.

Political speechwriter, master of ceremonies, restaurateur and voice actor all in one: with multi-hyphenate Hafez Nasruddin in the room comes the comforting assurance that he'll never be for want of an interesting story or two to keep the conversation flowing vibrantly.

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Whether it is well-timed joke, a genuine compliment or the subtle art of putting people at ease, Nasruddin’s superb speaking skills and extensive experience have led him to work with a wide range of clients, from corporates and celebrities to political leaders across Asia, all with the sole mission of enhancing their professional and political growth.  

Read on for Nasruddin’s 7 handy tips to help you make a stellar first impression at your next social function.

Be comfortable with yourself

True confidence comes from accepting yourself, embracing the good and the bad.

“First and foremost, be comfortable with your entire being: embrace your flaws and eliminate all insecurities," says Nasruddin. "This will result in a clear state of mind, smooth articulation and successful communication as a whole.”

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Be an active listener

If the first step is accepting yourself, the second is to STOP focusing on yourself. The best conversationalists are often the best listeners. 

“Start showing a genuine interest in people’s lives and experiences,” Nasruddin says. “To do that, you must learn the art of active listening. Small talk guru Debra Fine always advises one to become a ‘whole body’ listener - listen with your ears, your eyes, and your heart. Lean in to show others you’re really engaged.”

Dress to impress

“Always dress to impress. Wear a statement piece that tells a story and that defines you. It serves the dual function of an ice-breaker and an attention-getter.”

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Compliments over flattery

“In the words of George Herbert: ‘Good words are worth much and cost little’,” shares Nasruddin.

Rather than staying within your own clique, he suggests making it a point to approach people you don’t know in the room and start connecting with them.

“Pay close attention to what people around you are wearing and what they’re talking about. Try to find something interesting to highlight and give compliments about. But of course, do it in moderation.”

The name game

The ability to remember people’s names and honorary titles correctly will take you far in any networking event. When you’re first introduced to someone, learn their name and repeat it often, as this is a subtle yet effective way to win people over.

“When people tell you their names, make it a point to remember and say their names along the way,” says Nasruddin. “They will feel acknowledged and appreciated. You’ll instantly come across as kind and thoughtful, and they will open up to you. That in itself will open doors to other possibilities.”

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Take advantage of the business cards

"Don’t just keep the business cards you receive. Name cards should be the fuel to keep your conversation going.”

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Smartphones, good manners

Should you or should you not use your smartphone during a dinner function? Although this may spark a debate across generations and social conventions, Nasruddin’s stance is clear: “Try not to have your eyes glued on your phones all the time. That said, selfies and wefies are fine as a contemporary tool for warming up.”