‘Tis the season……to network!
At this time of year we all have the big three business holiday events:
All three are great opportunities to network. I hope these tips help:
Know thyself. Do you get energy from crowds or do they drain you? If you love to mix it up, get in there but stay focused on circulation and constructive conversation. If this takes effort, rest up before, have a plan even a number of people in your mind and yes, leave early. No shame in being yourself, just be your best self.
Carry cards. Do I really have to say this? I meet dozens of people at events called “the official office networking party” and they brought 10 cards. Carry 10 on your person and keep 25 in your purse or work bag. You don’t go on a road trip with an empty tank of gas, you don’t network without plenty of cards – business cards are your fuel to keep the conversation going after the holidays. Give them out only when you feel follow up would be of value. Don’t be these guys.
Eat, drink and be merry? Yes of course! But of course, in moderation. Eat before all business functions so you’re not chasing down the guy with the cocktail shrimp and you can refuse anything that will explode when you bite it. Enjoy a drink, it helps loosen the nerves, I get it. But not so loose what happens next ends up on YouTube. At the company lunch, order something you can talk over, it’s not about the food!
Put the phone away. Hey, many folks know me as Mr. Twitter at industry events and that’s social business in 2012. At ‘company’ events though, put the phone away. It’s almost as bad as scanning the room over people’s shoulder. Do not check email, do not ignore your guests or staff, you look like a tool. Want to work? Just go back to your office. Want to build relationships with new partners? Strengthen your team? BE PRESENT.
Tag team, not whole team. Bunching up with your office mates at the company party is like hiding in the washroom with your friends at the school dance. You came to meet people, so meet them. But hey, human nature craves safety so take a tip from the authors of my favourite networking book and tag team! Click here for more. Look for people you don’t know, ask what they do. Why aren’t you working together? The holidays are as much about internal networking as they are about external business development.
Stack the deck. When it comes to industry or sector events, send out a bunch of emails ( or tweets ) to people you know you are probably going to see and pre-start a conversation you can pick up while there. You’re setting up meetings in a meeting and your time there is guaranteed well invested. Tell peers you’re looking to meet someone specific and you need an introduction! And if you don’t get to see them? A perfect excuse to meet in the new year.
Prepare yourself and team. Now is the time to brush up on your mechanics, body language, a sincere smile, the secret handshake to build trust – here are my top networking books for ‘talkers’ and ‘thinkers’ with every secret on networking ever learned. Read one, rock the holidays and start 2013 off right! Remember to share your schedule and strategy with your staff and spouse if you’re “the boss”. They will be less annoyed with you if they’re ready too ( and know when to tell you, it’s time to go ).
Prepare promises, follow up! Another seemingly no brainer but hey, this is the busiest time of year for many. It’s not easy to come back from an event the night before ( exhausted usually ) and send out cards or emails. So prepare what you’re to promise and get the email with the link ready, photocopy that article and get those cards ready to hand write! Sending a follow up card with a “nice to meet you” in it isn’t worth the postage! Some great tips on holiday cards here.
I leave you with some tips on networking at holiday events… please share your tips with me below!
Thanks for reading, Paul