6 Tips for Networking at the Holidays

Network well and prosper in the new year.

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The holidays are upon us and we're sifting through party invitations. One major consideration to be aware of is that you never know who else will be in the same room with you sharing in conversation. That person may potentially be your next client or employer. The following tips are provided to help you make a great first impression.

1. Embrace the holiday spirit. Get into the moment by wearing your favorite clothing and accessories. Mentally prepare yourself for the fun time ahead. Leave the thought of bills and cranky others behind. This is your moment to have a good time.

Be forewarned that those who are shy and look down at the floor versus in your eyes could be hard to trust, so potential opportunity is defeated before it is ever offered. Instead, increase your energy and confidence with positive thought for the possibility of what may be awaiting you. Enthusiasm is contagious. Everyone enjoys seeing a big smile and hearing a warm hello from another.

2. Be gracious at parties. Greet the host (or hosts) of the party first and show appreciation for the invitation. Consider whether a small gift is appropriate. Should the host be overwhelmed with many guests arriving at the same time, say a brief thank you for the invitation and gracefully move away to greet others. Within the first hour, make an attempt to have a brief quality conversation with the host. Ask what their plans are for the remainder of the holidays or what they might be looking forward to in the coming year. Listen attentively to respond appropriately.

3. Watch your food and alcohol consumption. Good etiquette is another factor in building a better persona. Have you ever seen people stand over the food, downing it as if it were their last meal? They give no thought to anyone else. Better manners dictate you take a plate with cutlery in hand. Take a small portion of the food displayed on the table. Then move away for the next person to indulge.

Some people consume too much alcohol, followed by divulging private company information. Use good judgment in this regard. You may find it easier to get a drink after you helped yourself to food.

4. Communicate well with others. Some people will brag while others will speak of modest plans. The best strategy is to avoid the one-upmanship game and instead speak with encouragement. One never knows where the next sale or job will come from, and it's a known fact that people buy from people they know, like and trust. Supporting others will go a long way to develop likability.

Assuming you are at a corporate party where you know only some of the attendees, it's easiest to first say hello to those you know well. Leave enough time to make new acquaintances. A sales technique is to be the first one to ask a question. This allows insight as to what holds importance to the other person. Now you're able to continue the conversation in a way that will build the commonality and serve to potentially build the relationship.

If you're handed a business card, take a moment to study the name and title. Make a nice comment about the design of the card, unusual name or impressive title. Likewise, have yours tucked away. At parties, it is best not to readily hand one over but wait to be asked or to reciprocate.

If you're both enjoying the conversation and it seems to be on an equal playing field, ask if the person you're speaking with might like to explore ideas to help one another. A longer business conversation and finding mutual benefit may ensue.

5. Network around the room. While your desire may be to make a special connection, be cognizant of not tying up one person's time or being anti-social. Attempt to meet a number of people in the room. The host will appreciate the help in ensuring everyone has a good time.

In the event you encounter someone who is drunk, talks too much or is downright boring, listen for a bit and graciously excuse yourself by wishing them a very Happy New Year and continued success. Then move onward to the next guest.

6. Make thank yous count. Before leaving, if there was anyone you met earlier in the evening with whom you enjoyed speaking, find them to say goodbye. If you arranged a follow-up meeting, remind them that you're looking forward to it.

Next, find the host to thank him or her again for a wonderful time. Say something specific such as, "I made wonderful new connections." Making the effort to say thank you will be greatly appreciated and remembered for future occasions.

Elinor Stutz is a contributor to the Personal Branding Blog. She is the CEO of Smooth Sale, LLC, a sales training company. She teaches how to apply relationship selling skills to every endeavor including interviewing, writing a book and building your business. Elinor is the author of the best-selling book, "Nice Girls DO Get the Sale: Relationship Building That Gets Results" published by Sourcebooks. Her book was featured in TIME Magazine, translated into multiple languages and sells worldwide. Elinor's new book, "HIRED! How to Use Sales Techniques to Sell Yourself On Interviews," is based upon years of community service teaching job-seekers how to land the job they desire.