As December rolls around the invitations for end-of-year celebrations roll in, including the company Christmas party. This is a fantastic time to get out there, celebrate the year gone by and create solid, long-lasting business relationships.
So how can you make the most of these wonderful opportunities? Check out the seven tips below:
1. Do your homework
Knowing where you are going is crucial in anything in life but so is going with the flow. It really depends on what kind of party you are attending as to how much homework you do. Sometimes you can be over-prepared and stumble over your words, which does not have a place in a relaxed environment. Holiday parties are a good way to get to know people on a personal level and begin building a relationship based on mutual respect and friendship rather than strictly business. For example, if the party is your company Christmas party then you already know the guest list but think about how certain relationships could make your job easier. Consider other departments within the company and make a point of introducing yourself and getting to know some people outside your own department. When you do meet these people, forget about work and find out about them, their family, their hobbies and what makes them tick. You may be surprised! Read up on company news and news in general so you have something to talk about when you meet them. Most of all go with an open mind, and be curious and excited to meet new people.
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2. Make an entrance
There are no hard and fast rules for the first thing to do upon entering a party and some people find the entrance quite stressful. The best thing you can do is take a few minutes to take stock and observe your surroundings. I would tend to head for the host as it always polite to say hello and thank them for the invitation. Often when you do this, the host will introduce you to whomever they are speaking to so you would have your first conversation right there.
3. Lend a hand
If you don’t know many people at the party a great idea is to pick up a plate of food and start handing it around. This is a great way to meet people and to have conversations with many. It also gives you a reason to move on as you have to serve other hungry guests! You could equally bring your camera and take photos throughout the night.
4. Be brave
Saying hello to strangers can be nerve-racking for some but with practise it becomes easier so just be brave and do it! Say hello, extend your hand and ask them what brought them to the party. Be curious about them and you will never run out of conversation! Do watch what you drink. You are better off starting with the non-alcoholic stuff first as the night can go downhill fast if you don’t!
5. Keep in touch
I always have a few cards in my handbag but don’t go out with the intention of using them. It is just easier to exchange cards than it is to find a pen. These days you can just load the contact into your phone and set a diary reminder to follow up, so cards really aren’t necessary any more. You are not there to hand out cards; only use them if someone asks or you make a time to reconnect. Many of my most valuable business connections have begun as an introduction at a party so be prepared.
6. What happens in Vegas no longer stays in Vegas
Parties are fun, and they should be. No matter what party it is, be your best self. Don’t drink too much, have a laugh and be generous with your time, your friends and your listening ability. Watch how you present yourself and don’t lose control. Many times an innocent upload of a photo on Facebook has resulted in business backlash – even if it wasn’t taken at a business function – so this applies to everything. Apart from that you’ll have a much better time if you remain in control. Who knows – you may also learn a few interesting facts once others are a little more relaxed!
7. Follow up
You could buy a stack of New Year cards and send them to the people you met with your business card inside. Remind them of your conversation and what you enjoyed about meeting them. This is a busy time of year and people can forget so take the reins of the relationship and solidify a connection. What a nice surprise to come back to work after the holidays and find a card from you!
December is a time of reflection, of gratitude and celebration. Most of all enjoy, relax and be respectful to others and yourself and your year will finish with the right kind of bang!
Kim McGuinness is managing director of Network Central, a networking and mentoring organisation for middle-managers, since 1999; the founder of networkingmentor.com.au, an online mentoring program; and one of Australia’s leading commentators on business, marketing and networking. She is also co-author of Network or Perish – Learn the Secrets of Master Networkers.
This article first appeared on LeadingCompany. Download your free LeadingCompany eBook “10 Key Considerations for Succession and Business Exits”.