It's that time of year again, and there's a holiday party practically every night. Sometimes they're fun, and other times, they may simply be an obligation that you can't avoid. But either way, holiday parties can be great networking opportunities - and you never know where the next great prospect will come from.
Several years ago, I wrote a series of posts about networking. Now might be a good time to revisit them.
In Holiday Networking Tips, I wrote about the 10 steps to effective networking. You can read the whole post for more details, but here's an overview of the 10 tips:
- Have a purpose - Even when attending a holiday party, make a plan. Is there someone specific you would like to meet or talk to? Would you like to come away with three new contacts? Develop a goal for each event.
- Focus on quality, not quantity - Don't just paper the place with your business cards. Make meaningful connections. Have memorable conversations. Even one good discussion or new contact can make an event successful.
- Get involved with something you're passionate about - When you care, you're more genuine and engaging, and others respond to that. Many holiday networking events include collections for charity, and many organizations engage in charitable work during the holidays. If that's something that speaks to you, perhaps you'll want to volunteer to be more involved next year.
- Listen - This may be the golden rule of networking. The more you listen, the more you get to know others, and the better you understand their goals and their problems and how you might be able to help them.
- Be prepared - Know your audience. Who will be attending the event? What are they interested in? How can you talk about what you do in a way that will be interesting or helpful to them? Come prepared with some topics of conversation (they don't all have to be about business).
- Seek out strategic alliances - Networking events can be places to meet others who can be of service to your clients, or who can refer business to you.
- Make diverse contacts - Don't always stick with the same groups or spend time at networking events with people who are already in your circle. Broaden your horizons.
- Follow up - One meeting does not a relationship make. If you meet a new contact or reconnect with an old one this holiday season, send a note, reach out on social media, or pick up the phone to keep the conversation going.
- Be patient - Networking and building relationships takes time.
- Keep track of networking contacts - Don't forget to enter those new business cards into your database, contacts or address book. You can't follow up effectively if you don't have accurate contact information.
Need more networking help? Consider yourself too shy for big holiday parties? My post on Networking for Shy People might help. Some of my favorite tips from that post are:
- Arrive early. Instead of walking into a room full of people, arrive early so the room doesn't look so intimidating. This will likely also give you the opportunity to speak with the hosts before things get too busy.
- Look for outsiders: Chances are that you aren't the only shy person at any event. Look for people who are alone or who look as lost as you feel. It will be easier than approaching a whole group of people.
Don't know what to say at networking events? Try reading Networking, What Do I Say? That post includes tips like:
- Ask questions. Most people are happy to talk about themselves. If you don't know what to say, ask questions. If you don't want to talk about business, ask about holiday plans or favorite holiday activities.
- Check out the local news. The news is usually an endless source of topics for conversation - but stay away from anything too controversial.
- Talk about your surroundings. If all else fails, talk about the location of the event, the decorations, how crowded (or not) it is, how good (or not) the food is, how fabulous your companion's outfit is,etc.
Want even more holiday tips? You might enjoy my most recent post on Slaw.ca, Use the Spirit of the Holiday Season to Improve your Networking.