Silly Season Networking
What do you do when the number of available weekends before the New Year starts to dwindle?
All those friends you planned to catch up with all year now have to be crammed into a handful of Saturdays. All those big business goals you had at the beginning of the year require action before December 1 and, in addition the festive season invitations begin to arrive. Oh, and did I mention just how much regular work you still have to do?
The festive season is always a glorious mix of business and social and the perfect time to get to know another side of your work colleagues. I don’t mean through a drunken photocopying spree at the office Christmas party, rather the opportunity to have more casual conversations that are about life, feelings and dreams. In my opinion networking is just this, developing meaningful relationships and getting to know people, but it still can be scary so here are some tips for those more casual than business engagements:
1. Knowing where you are going is crucial in anything in life but so is going with the flow. It really depends on what kind of party you are attending as to how much homework you do. Sometimes you can be over prepared and stumble over your words, which does not have a place in a relaxed environment. Holiday parties are a good way to get to know people on a personal level and begin building a relationship based on mutual respect and friendship rather than strictly business. For example, if the party is your company Christmas party then you already know the guest list but think about how certain relationships could make your job easier. Consider other departments within the company and make a point of introducing yourself and getting to know some people outside your own department. When you do meet these people, forget about work and find out about them, their family, their hobbies and what make them tick. You may be surprised! Read up on company news and news in general so you have something to talk about when you meet them. Most of all go with an open mind, and be curious and excited to meet some new people.
2. There are no hard and fast rules for the first thing to do upon arriving at a party and some people find the entrance quite stressful. The best thing you can do is take a few minutes to take stock and observe your surroundings. I usually head for the host as it always polite to say hello and thank them for the invitation. Often when you do this, the host will introduce you to whomever they are speaking to so you would have your first conversation right there. If you don’t know many people at the party a great idea is to pick up a plate of food and start handing it around to help out the host. This is a great way to meet people and to have conversations with many. It also gives you a reason to move on as you have to serve other hungry guests! You could equally bring your camera and take photos throughout the night.
“The festive season is always a glorious mix of business and social and the perfect time to get to know another side of your work colleagues”
3. Greeting strangers can be nerve-racking but with practice it becomes easier so just be brave and do it! Say hello, extend your hand and ask them what brought them to the party. Be curious about them and you will never run out of conversation! Do watch your alcohol consumption and alternate water with your drinks. You are better off starting with the non-alcoholic stuff first as the night can go downhill fast if you don’t!
4. I always have a few cards in my handbag but don’t go out with the intention of using them. It is just easier to exchange cards than it is to find a pen on the night. These days you can just load the contact into your phone and set a diary reminder to follow up so cards really aren’t necessary any more. You are not there to hand out cards, only use them if someone asks or you make a time to reconnect. Many of my most valuable business connections have commenced as an introduction at a party so do be prepared.
Parties are fun, and they should be. No matter what party it is, be your best self. Don’t get drunk, have a sense of humour and be open with your time, your friends and your listening ability. Many facebook photos have resulted in a backlash for business, even if not a corporate event so this applies to everything. Apart from that you’ll have a much better time if you remain in control.