All You Need to Know About Holiday Party Networking

Many businesses tend to wind down over the holidays unless they run an operation favored by Santa and his elves. It’s tempting to put your feet up and put your marketing on hold until you enter the New Year. The reality is that while you go into a turkey-induced slumber for several weeks, your competitors may not be doing the same thing.

Here are our top eight business networking tips for the holidays to stay ahead of your competitors.

1. Show Up
We know some holiday affairs can be a waste of time, but we also know networking is like a raffle. If you don’t enter, you have no chance of winning.

We often hear tales of how a chance meeting at a holiday party led to a new client or a business opportunity.

New connections may result in you gaining a new contact, whose services will come to mind six months later when you launch a new product line. Holiday networking will also remind influencers and prospective clients of who you are and what you do.

2. Have a Game Plan
When you attend a holiday networking event, you should have some idea of what you want to achieve. Maybe a business associate has been strangely distant over the past six months. Networking provides a great opportunity for you to catch up and talk to him in an informal environment. He may tell you he’s been ill, or his business has taken a nosedive. This sort of information is useful if you intend to have an ongoing relationship with him, or it may be time to line up some alternatives.

Maybe your game plan is more ambitious, and you want to ensure quality introductions take place. Partner up ahead of time with a friend who has agreed to introduce you to her connections if you will do the same.

3. Use the Informal Environment for Follow Ups
Usually, people who attend holiday parties are more relaxed than at other times of the year, and their guard may be down.

Parties help you create or build relationships on a more personal level.

If you meet someone you might want to do business with, take a slower and more measured approach. Keep the conversation light, and as it wraps up, see if they will agree to lunch or coffee to talk business.

4. Ask for Introductions
There’s little reason to attend business-sponsored parties if talking to folks you already know is all you do. Holidays are the easiest time of the year to ask for introductions and meet people for the first time.

Ask a friend at the event if there’s someone there he thinks you should meet. Then see if he will introduce you. It’s an approach that will ease you into conversations instead of cold calling on strangers. It will also help you build good connections instead of ending up with business cards that are virtually meaningless to you.

5. Respect the Event
If groups are sitting around tables, deeply engrossed in conversations, it’s not the best time to butt in and shower them with business cards.

Also, if you are at a very informal event, don’t pull out a marketing brochure to outline your business’s five-step onboarding process.

Like every other relationship you should aim to build rapport. Seek out common interests so you have a basis for further dialogue after the event.

6. Bring a Wing Man or Woman
You will be a better networker if you bring along a colleague or a business associate. You can cover more ground at an event and have a fallback person to talk to if you need a break. A wingman is also a good strategy for nervous networkers. If you are accompanied by a business partner who you have a good rapport with, it can be easier to start conversations and keep them going.

A wingman or woman can also help you navigate your way out of unimportant or long-winded conversations. Your wingman or wingwoman can carry on the conversation while you make your excuses and target someone else for conversation.

7. Remember Networking Involves More Than You
When you meet someone at a holiday networking event you should ask them as much as possible about their business, as well as responding to their questions about yours. Not only will they appreciate your attentiveness, but it’s important to find out if they could be a good resource for yourself and your connections.

Seek ways to increase the value of the relationship individuals have with you. You may meet someone who can provide a solution for one of your favorite business partners. Now you’ve just made two people happy, which is always a good thing for business development.

8. The Most Important Tip
Have fun. It’s the holidays after all, and folks like being around others who are having a good time.

By Victor ClarkE