Holiday networking on steroids
Tis the season to shop, celebrate and network. Networking might come in the form of coffee and lunch meetings, holiday parties or conference events. There is a misperception that networking is easier for some people (i.e. “extroverts”) and that other people have learned how to be more social and able to make great contacts with strangers.
In reality, networking is not just about being social. What matters is the attitude and approach you take to using the networking activity to gain opportunity. When attending a networking event, especially around the holidays and particularly one where you don’t know anyone, instead of dreading the interaction, consider making it your job to assume the role of host and facilitator. Assume the position of someone who is there to meet other people, to make them feel comfortable in your presence, and leave having made a good impression.
Here are 10 tips to get the most from your holiday networking:
- Make it your job to meet people. Set a goal of how many people you will meet and stick to it. This gives your networking a sense of purpose and direction.
- Seek out people who are standing by themselves. The person standing alone at the cabaret-height table, drink and hors d'oeuvres in hand will be grateful for your conversation! By approaching them and starting a conversation, you are rescuing them from what they perceive to be a glaring light shining on their alone-ness.
- Ask open-ended questions. Instead of “nice party, huh?” ask, “What did you think of the CEO’s presentation?” or “How has your work changed over the past year?” You are seeking to start a conversation, not conduct an interrogation. Open-ended questions show your willingness to engage.
- Always look for the other person’s favorite subject. When talking with someone new, seek out things that make them smile or laugh, rather than topics that cause their face to droop. At the holidays, many of us like to talk about college-age kids returning home or holiday traditions. Asking questions that elicit a positive response indicate you’re on the right track.
- At the company party, greet your boss and your boss’ boss. If it’s your spouse’s party, do the same. Smile, show graciousness and keep the conversation brief (unless they keep it going.) Thank them for the party. Even though they likely had nothing to do with the planning and preparation, it’s polite to thank them.
- Avoid gossip at all costs. Holiday parties are often the time when people let down their hair (with the help of spiked egg nog) and rumors swirl. The best advice is to dismiss yourself from gossip.
- Be yourself. Authenticity is the most attractive feature in people. When we feel someone is genuine, we feel most at ease in their presence.
- Don’t take things too personally. If you are talking to someone and they spot someone they’d rather talk with and abandon you, just move on. No need to sulk around with hurt feelings. Most people get easily distracted this time of year. Besides, if they just met you, they couldn’t possibly know enough about you to reject you (personally).
- Be subtle about your exit. No need to call attention to yourself if you have to run home to relieve a babysitter. Say your “thank you” and good-byes and leave the event.
- Be mindful about what you post on social media after the event. Your boss may not appreciate the comments/photos you share about the event or what he “accidentally” said. Remember: everything you put online is public.
By making networking your job, you assume responsibility for making others feel comfortable. Others will appreciate your generosity, and you will make a positive impression going into the New Year.