Whether it’s your company party, client’s gathering, association festivities or celebration with family and friends, holiday parties are a chance to have fun and get into the spirit of things. Of course, there are also some great networking opportunities to be had, especially if you’re an agent and looking to get a fresh start for next year.
Networking at holiday shindigs may be a bit different from the usual chamber meeting or networking event, so here are some quick tips on how to “work the room” while socializing and celebrating.
1. Keep it light!
Yes, it should be light fare! This is probably not the best time to get into heavy conversations about mergers, real estate listings, long-term care, annuities, the economy or anything else pressing. It is a time to get to know people and have fun conversations about the good things happening both in and out of work. Keep it light, fun and positive.
2. Know who will be at the party.
It’s important to learn about the people that may be rounding out the guest list. Who do you need to meet? Who should you reconnect with? (Read: Whose name do you need to remember?) Who do they need to meet? How can you help one another? The more you know the better you can prepare.
3. Have your tools of the trade.
Leave the tool belt at home. Best to have business cards, a couple of throw away pens, index cards (so you can jot things down), your Blackberry, smartphone, or whatever (just don’t use it when speaking with others face to face), maybe some breath mints, a name tag (worn on the right if possible so it’s in eyeshot upon shaking hands) and some holiday cheer!
4. Initiate conversations.
It’s always a great thing if you can initiative a conversation rather than waiting for someone to come over and meet you. I think when you initiate a face-to-face conversation with someone you don’t already know, you can set a nice tone while showcasing your smarts and confidence. Also, if you can help make someone who’s standing alone feel more comfortable, you’re both ahead of the game.
5. Have questions to ask others — especially about big plans for the coming year.
Ask the right questions and you get the right answers! So what type of work do you do? Where do you work? Do you like what you do? What kind of year did you have in your business? What’s in store for next year? Any big plans for the holidays? Who else do you know here? From a business standpoint, is there anyone here I can introduce you to? How can I help you in your business? (Only if you like them and can truly help.) Of course, any questions about current events and light social banter are always welcomed.
6. Ask to be introduced.
In knowing who might be at the party, you can always ask for an introduction. Perhaps a good business contact, someone that has insight about a college you’re researching for your kid, or someone who targets the same markets that you do. I find the best way to ask for an introduction is to offer one — if you can. Or simply let the person with whom you’re speaking know what type of people (industry, profession, whatever) you’re ultimately looking to connect with. Be careful to never disrespect or downplay the conversation you’re currently in.
7. Be polite in terminating conversations.
In a business networking setting, I generally don’t speak with people longer than about eight minutes (without ever looking at my watch!). At a holiday party, I may be a bit more relaxed about timeframes, as conversations typically have more of a social flair. This is fine, of course. When you want to end a conversation say something like, “It was great getting the chance to chat and I look forward to seeing you again soon.”
8. The only thing you are selling is you.
I was at a holiday party last year and there was a guy that was there for the sole purpose of generating venture capital for a product he was developing. He wasn’t looking to establish rapport or build a relationship. He was simply there to see if anyone was interested in a “business opportunity.” I was speaking with him for about two minutes before he hit me with a pitch, which led to a quick and awkward goodbye. Remember, marketing collateral, PowerPoint presentations, and sales pitches are a big no-no. There should be no fact finders or mention of products and services. The only thing you should be there to sell is you.