How to make networking fun and worthwhile
December is the time of year for holiday parties galore- and with that comes opportunities for networking. Love it or hate it, these events provide attendees with the opportunity to connect with colleagues and make new professional contacts. Attendees may be there to network, are attending because of a work obligation or simply to have fun and unwind. Here’s how you make yourself stand out at holiday parties, provide value to other attendees, and grow your network.
1. Go the the Party with a Strategy
It’s tempting to let loose and hang out with the usual people in the office. If your goal is to expand your circle of influence, it’s best to make a list of people that it would be beneficial to speak to at the party. If you’re going with the purpose of networking, let your co-workers know what you’re doing and divide and conquer. Enlist the host or other key people in advance – ask if they might introduce you to someone on your list. That way, you and your company are getting the greatest amount of visibility possible.
2. Network with Everyone You Can.
Holiday parties provide great networking opportunities. You could meet a future boss, mentor, co-worker, or a customer. However, networking is easier said than done for many people. If you’re unsure of where to start with people, begin with asking people some basic information, such as where the people work and what their job entails. After you’ve learned that basic information with people, ask people questions about projects they are working on then move on to talking about trends in your industry or current events that may be interesting to that person, based upon what you have in common. One of my favorite starter questions, easy when here are name tags is “So, tell me about (insert their name).” The beauty is you will immediately get them talking, and this is important – talking about themselves or their favorite topic. Do they lead with their job, hobby, family? Pay attention and let them carry the conversation.
3. Limit ‘Shop’ Talk
Preparing some conversational topics ahead of time can be helpful, specifically if you are a shier person. Review current events and think about some topics that aren’t work-related. The last thing you want to do is talk about work-related achievements and come off as haughty or overly self-interested. Or worse, they use the opportunity to complain. Listen more, speak less. Ask informed questions. This will show people you are speaking with at the event that you are genuine and interested in what they do. You aren’t all about promoting yourself or creating sales.
4. Offer Your Business Card (and Ask for Theirs)
Once you have had good conversations with key people at the party, it’s important to offer your business card so you can stay in touch. Ask if you may have their card. Write a quick note on the back. It could be a small reminder about what you talked about or something that will jog someone’s memory as they look through their vast amount of cards.
5. Follow Up
After you’ve had great conversations, it’s time to follow up. We absolutely love written notes. We even have a prepared note card that fits in a regular #10 envelope. If you want to really stand out, though we suggest the handwritten note to people’s workplace. People rarely get handwritten notes these days and that is a great way to cut through the clutter of emails and stand out! Don’t forget to invite people to connect with you on LinkedIn. A simple message on LinkedIn or email will show that you are gracious and are a person who follows through.