Ever go to a business networking event and ask yourself “Great, what am I going to talk about these people tonight?” Well here’s a little tip on how to become a better networker.

I was reading Details Magazine on the couch the other day when my wife started to tidy up the living room (which by NYC standards is half of our house). As the minutes (and pages) ticked by, my wife was obviously getting more and more irritated.

“Why am the only one working around here?” she finally asked indignantly. At this, I immediately got up and started doing the dishes. Having been married now for 8 years, I know from experience that it’s simply easier NOT to argue. But in this particular case, I would have been perfectly justified to have done so because the truth is…I was working.

Now I wouldn’t call myself an avid reader, but I do like to keep abreast of things. A lot of politics, a ton of business news, a decent amount of film industry updates (especially if it involves space ships or guys with capes), some international and technology developments (Go Apple!) and maybe a smidgen of celebrity gossip.

I’ve always enjoyed reading (not counting high school) but I didn’t realize how handy it would be until these last few years. You see, being well read is good for business. And I don’t mean just staying on top of your industry, but of being reasonably informed about a wide range of subjects.

Have you ever sat next to someone at a party or even gone out on a date with someone with whom you had absolutely nothing in common with and therefore had nothing to talk about? A lot of awkward silent moments there, right? And when you’re out networking or meeting with a potentially new client, the last thing you want is a lot of awkward silent moments. What you want is chemistry.

Everyone wants to do business with people they like. And when a potential client asks for a meeting, that means they actually have a need for services like yours and you’ve already made the cut…ON PAPER. The only thing they want to know now – is do they personally like YOU. You already have the qualifications, what you need now is the chemistry. And what is chemistry? A lot of it is just having the right personality. But a lot of it is also having something you can both talk about aside from business. Maybe it’s politics, or family, or movies. Similar interests is what we’re looking for. So the more interests you have, the better.

This is also true when networking. It’s not enough that people get to know you, but you need to make sure they remember you (a whole nother blog entry) and you certainly want them to like you. And the best way to do that is by having great conversations.

Now I’m not saying you should read up about everything. Or pretend to be interested in topics that you’re not. (Bring up sports and I’m dead) But try to be up to date in as many subjects that DO interest you and it will serve you well more often than you know.

I once took a call for an employee who was no longer with us and when the caller left her company name I said “I know your company, you help place immigrants in professional jobs.” The caller was quite impressed as they weren’t that well known yet. But I had read about them a few weeks earlier in a business magazine and actually considered reaching out to them as I truly believed in their cause. It was a random call, but because I had read about them and because I was familiar with the bigger issues they were addressing, they became a client and we produced their first TV spots for them. And that’s just one example, and an extremely darn good one.

Head hunters have a term they use after interviewing applicants. They call it “Passing the elevator test.” What it means is that a person is either someone you wouldn’t mind being stuck on an elevator with or not. The more pleasant and interesting your are to talk to, the better your chances of passing that test.

So hit the books (or newspapers, or magazines, or the internet.) But make sure the chores are done first.