It is that time of the year again -- the holiday party circuit is about to kick into high gear. There are generally two types of people when it comes to holiday parties. Those that dread getting together and mingling with people they don’t know, and those that prioritize their holiday-party tour based on food selection and how long the open bar is open.
There is more to holiday parties than food comas and hangovers -- they can be networking goldmines! As an entrepreneur, you need to take advantage of every opportunity to network and grow your business. Use these 10 tips to help turn your holiday-party tour into priceless networking that results in new contacts and business opportunities.
1. Go in with a positive attitude
Don’t go to a party with a negative attitude. It will be obvious to everyone around you that you don’t want to be there if you have a miserable look on your face. Nobody wants to associate with a party pooper, so smile and have a good time.
2. Arrive with goals in mind
When you attend a networking event you should have a set goal in mind. For example, you might want to establish three connections that can develop into business relationships. Do the same with holiday parties. Go in with a goal and work the crowd until you meet and exceed that initial goal.
3. Dress the part and participate
Themed holiday parties are very popular. There is a good chance that you will be invited to an ugly-sweater party or a themed-dress party. You will stick out like a sore thumb if you don’t participate, and nobody is going to want to hang around the fun police.
Toy-drive themed parties are also very popular -- I know many businesses like to support causes such as Toys for Tots and will ask that all attendees donate an unwrapped toy. The toy pile is a great place to make introductions as soon as you get there, so make sure you bring a cool toy that will not only bring joy to an unfortunate child this holiday season, but also be a great conversation starter.
(Note: If you are in the middle of planning your company holiday party, consider asking your attendees to bring an unwrapped toy and donate them to Toys for Tots. It is an organization I fully support. I truly believe every child should have a happy holiday.)
4. Break away from your crew
It never fails -- at every holiday party there are always cliques of people that know each other. They are either friends or co-workers and they will stay in the corner the entire time talking amongst themselves. You aren’t going to network and meet new people staying in your comfort zone, so break out of your bubble and meet new people. Introduce yourself, shake hands and socialize.
5. Don’t be a human business-card dispenser
Yes, you should be armed with business cards. No, you shouldn’t hand them out like candy to anyone willing to take one. Have them in your pocket ready, so when someone asks, “Do you have a card on you?” -- you can quickly put one in their hand. Keep them tucked away until someone requests one.
6. Leverage acquaintances for more effective introductions
If there is a particular individual that you want to be introduced to connect with someone that knows them and get a proper introduction. Any time a mutual acquaintance makes an introduction it is less awkward and the ice is immediately broken.
7. Lead with casual conversation topics instead of your business
Starting a conversation with current events rather than talking about your business is a much smoother introduction. A conversation can quickly erupt if you ask for an option regarding a current-events topic.
If I start a conversation with, “My company is Market Domination Media, and we are awesome,” the person is going to look at my like I have two heads. If I start a conversation on current events and a question such as “The Marlins just signed Giancarlo Stanton to a 13-year $325 million contract -- think that was a good move?” it forces the other person to answer.
8. The action is always going to be near the food
Where is the one area that everyone is going to naturally gravitate towards multiple times throughout the party? The food area, of course! This is a great place to meet people, and a quick-witted reply to the “How are the bacon-wrapped scallops?” question can start a conversation that begins at the food and picks up later in the evening.
9. Know your alcohol limits
Having a few drinks at holiday parties is fine, but Jägerbomb until you can’t stand up could crush your credibility. Don’t be "that guy" at the party. You want people to remember you because you made a great impression, not for your ability to make a tequila bottle disappear.
10. Say "thank you" when leaving and also send a follow-up email
Holiday-party hosts spend a lot of time and money to put on these events, but the majority of guests arrive only to eat, drink, mingle and then leave without even thanking the host. Use this as an opportunity to stand out and make a new connection. Personally thank the host when it is time for you to leave and then also send them a quick email the following day thanking them. There aren’t many easier ways to get your email signature with full contact information in front of decision-makers.
Do you have any other holiday-party-networking tips? We would love to hear them, so list them in the comments section below.