The holiday party is a great time to meet people but . . . you should have a plan!
Everybody goes to parties, and the holiday season is full of them. It’s also a business slowdown season for many of us who are not in retail. The holiday parties are NOT just a place for free food and drinks.
Holiday parties and other social mixers bring new opportunities to network, even more than the rest of the year. The holidays are times when we are more likely to see people in a social setting, and this setting definitely lends itself to building relationships.
Most people think of networking only in traditional networking venues, such as the chamber, strong-contact referral groups like BNI, and other business-oriented gatherings. But that’s not using the power of networking to its fullest.
It can be the best time to introduce yourself or have a friendly conversation with one of your superiors. Making an impact on someone important can be a real career booster; it could open the door for new job opportunities, promotions and/or new business.
In order to make the most of “holiday party networking,” here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Be prepared! If you’re going to hobnob, try to know whom you are talking to, what their job and role in the company are and what they’ve done this year for the organization. Use this info as a way to start a conversation. If you know some of the people who will be in attendance, do a Google search on them. Do some homework.
- Ask questions. Some suggestions: How did you start the business? How did you take the business international? How did you start franchising? What were some of the challenges with . . . ? Have you read any good books lately? (My favorite is: How can I help you?)
- Have a “teaser” topic ready. Approaching the end of the year, every business wants to increase profits and performance in the New Year. Have an idea ready that describes how you can improve your sector in the coming year. (Word to the wise: Don’t give away the goose; set up a meeting to discuss the details.)
- Use this introduction as a segue for a future meeting. As mentioned above, you don’t want to “end” the conversation at the party. The end game here is to open the door for follow-up. You want to be able to connect with the person after the party, one-to-one.
- Don’t have more than a couple drinks. It’s a party, but it’s not YOUR party. You don’t want to be stinking of liquor when you approach the people you want to connect with. Impressions count. Make the right one.
- Be confident of your value. Introducing yourself to an executive can be an intimidating experience, so give yourself an informed pep talk. Before the event, make a list of the things you’ve done over the past year and understand how what you do may integrate into discussions. Once you’ve got this down, there’s no reason you shouldn’t feel good about yourself. Consider how what you’ve done can integrate with the executive’s interests.
- Honor the event. Make sure when networking at a holiday party–or any non-traditional networking event–that networking is supplementary to the reason people are there, so don’t treat it like a chamber mixer. Be sincere.
Don’t act as if you’re in the boardroom giving a presentation; keep it natural and leave them intrigued. The real emphasis must be on “finesse” at a company holiday party. Yes, it is a great networking opportunity–but if you overtly “sell,” you may turn people off! After all, it is a holiday.
You can network anywhere, including events where it might not at first occur to you to try it–and, paradoxically, it’s at these non-traditional networking settings where you’ll often get the most bang for your buck.