TORONTO - Some Canadians are doing more than pulling together an outfit or purchasing a host gift to prep for a holiday party - they're also boning up on their current events, a new survey suggests.
An MSN Canada survey of more than 1,000 people conducted by Harris-Decima finds 20 per cent of respondents admit to doing some research on current affairs or other topics to be ready for casual conversation at a holiday party.
Men are more likely than women to study up prior to a big event, with 22 per cent saying they do so prior to a holiday party.
Conversation expert Debra Fine says individuals "should be prepared to play the conversation game" when walking into a party. Part of that entails having two or three things to talk about in the event a conversation runs dry.
Most Canadians searching for the latest news or buzzworthy fodder are letting their fingers do the walking, the survey suggests. The findings show that 67 per cent of respondents are using online sources to access information.
But it's not just that people pride themselves on being knowledgeable about what's going on around the globe - they also look with approval on others who are aware, the survey suggests.
Ninety per cent of those surveyed say it's important to be up to date on what's happening in the world. And 79 per cent of respondents say a person's knowledge about what's happening in the world can influence what others think of them.
While 86 per cent consider themselves to be "in the know" on a variety of topics, 47 per cent of respondents have frequently or sometimes wished they knew more information on a particular topic so they could actively participate in a conversation happening around them.
Mary-Ellen Anderson, executive director/producer for MSN.ca, says people should give themselves "the gift of information."
"Today with online, you're inundated by newsletters, RSS feeds and not to mention your endless amount of bookmarks which you have with different sites that you go to," she says.
"The difference in terms of the amount of news that's coming to us is incredible in the last 10 years, and it's only going to grow exponentially even more in the years to come."
As for partygoers, Fine said that beyond having some topics ready for chit-chat, people should convey approachability by exuding confidence through body language, like looking ahead and smiling - even if they aren't feeling entirely at ease.
"If I walk into a situation where I don't know anybody and I lack confidence, I just fake it," said Fine, the author of "The Fine Art of Small Talk."
"I fake it for five minutes or 50 minutes until I do feel comfortable, so I'm aware of my body language, I'm aware of my facial expressions," she said from Denver.
For those who are painfully shy or feeling overwhelmed, Fine recommended trying to meet a select number of new people and seeing this as a task they want to accomplish.
Fine said one of the best ways to strike up a conversation is to use the commonality of the occasion as an icebreaker. That could include inquiring about how the person knows the party host or hostess, or their connection to the company or charity in question, she said.
However, if you run into someone you haven't seen for a while, it's best to ask what's been going on with them or their family rather than specifics about spouses or work in case their marital status has changed or they've lost their job, Fine suggested.
Harris-Decima polled 1,013 Canadians from Oct. 8-11 through teleVox, its telephone omnibus survey. Results for a sample of this size are considered accurate plus or minus 3.1 percentage points, 19 times out of 20.