Making the most of holiday networking

Buckle your seat belt: the business-social season is about to kick into high gear. Many organizations will have holiday parties, and contacts will likely invite you to a variety of parties. It’s a great opportunity to meet new people and, if you are strategic about the functions you attend, to meet and build relationships with people who will be helpful for your business development goals.

If you get energy from meeting new people, you’re probably polishing your shoes already. If you’re a bit more introverted, however, or if the idea of walking into a room of strangers is so off-putting you’d rather do anything else, you might be tempted to skip out on these business-social opportunities. 

Here’s help, through a few articles I’ve recently read, plus one video:

The 17 best icebreakers to use at awkward social events offers some good ideas to kick off conversation, with simple suggestions such as asking whether your conversational partner is originally from the city you’re in or whether she came here for business. Ignore the goofy photos and a few goofy icebreakers, but do read the commentary along with each suggestion for some valuable insight.

7 Tips for Networking has good principles for networking. The first (don’t arrive late) and last (follow up) are my favorites, but all are useful.

20 Ways to Start a Conversation and Build into a Connection makes the critical (but far too often overlooked) point that having a conversation doesn’t much matter unless it becomes the building block for a relationship. I particularly like tip 7, which suggests actively working on a repertoire of entertaining stories. Whether it’s a practice-related war story or a funny story about your kids, knowing how to tell a story well can pave the way for a great connection.

21 Conversations Starters Professionals Can Use to Break the Ice provides seven topics you might use to get conversation going and outlines a four-step process for good conversation: “One: Ask them appropriate, relevant questions about themselves — known as ‘conversation starters.’ Two: Practice active, appreciative listening. Three: Share brief, reflective relevant comments about yourself. And four: Repeat the process.”

Must Know Body Language Tips for Networking Events recommends watching the feet in a networking setting. It’s an unusual proposition, but a valuable a 3-minute video.

Using these tips will help you in both business and business-social networking opportunities. Choose strategically which functions to attend, prepare yourself to initiate conversations, and initiate good follow-up … And you’ll be ready to make the most of holiday networking.

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