Everybody goes to parties, and the holiday season is full of them. It’s also a business
slowdown season for many of us who are not in retail. The holiday parties are NOT just a
place for free food and drinks.
Holiday parties and other social mixers bring new opportunities to network, even more
than the rest of the year. The holidays are times when we are more likely to see people
in a social setting, and this setting definitely lends itself to building relationships.
But holiday parties, including professional and industry social events where you can
network with people outside your business, can be an even better time to introduce
yourself to a new contact or share a friendly conversation with someone you already
Most people think of networking only in traditional networking venues, such as the
Chamber of Commerce, strong-contact referral groups like BNI®, and other business-
oriented gatherings. But that’s not using the power of networking to its fullest.
In order to make the most of “holiday party networking,” here’s a few things to keep in
Honor the Event. This is really important! Make sure when networking
at a holiday party – or any non-traditional networking event – that networking is
supplementary to the reason people are there, so don’t treat it like a business mixer.
Be aware of the primary focus. Don’t act as if you’re in the boardroom giving a
presentation, keep it natural and leave them intrigued. The real emphasis must be
on ‘finesse’ at a holiday party. Yes, it is a great networking opportunity – but, if you
overtly sell, you may turn people off! After all, it is a holiday.
Be Prepared! If you’re going to hobnob, try to know whom you are talking to,
what business they are with and what they’ve done this year with the organization. Use
this info as a way to start a conversation. If you know some of the people who will be in
attendance, do a Google search on them. Do some homework.
Ask questions. Some suggestions: How did you start the business? How did
you grow the business? How did you market the business? What were some of the
challenges with…? Have you read any good books lately? (My favorite is: How can I
Have a “Teaser” Topic Ready. Approaching the end of the year, every business
wants their company to increase profits and performance in the New Year. Have an idea
ready that describes how you can improve your sector in the coming year. (Word to the
wise: Don’t give away the goose; set up a meeting to discuss the details.)
Use this Introduction as a Segue for a Future Meeting. As mentioned above,
you don’t want to “end” the conversation at the party. The end game here is to open the
door for follow-up. You want to be able to connect with the person after the party, one-
to-one. Let some of the people you meet at these parties know that you’d like to learn
more about their business and that you’d like to meet them next year to learn more.
Don’t Have More than a Couple Drinks. It’s a party, but it’s not YOUR party.
You don’t want to be stinking of liquor when you approach the people you want to
connect with. Impressions count. Make the right one.
Be Confident of Your Value. Introducing yourself to an executive can be an
intimidating experience, so give yourself an informed pep talk. Before the event, make a
list of the things you have done over the past year and understand how what you do may
integrate into discussions. Once you’ve got this down, there’s no reason you shouldn’t
feel good about yourself. Consider how what you’ve done can integrate with their
You can network anywhere, anytime, and anyplace – including events where it might not
at first occur to you to try it—and, paradoxically, it’s at these non-traditional networking
settings where you’ll often get the most bang for your buck. Remember to honor the
event and focus on making valuable connections – not short term transactions.
Called the "father of modern networking" by CNN, Dr. Ivan Misner is a New York Times
bestselling author. He is the Founder and Chairman of BNI, the world's largest business
networking organization. His newest book, Networking Like a Pro, can be viewed at
www.IvanMisner.com. Dr. Misner is also the Sr. Partner for the Referral Institute, an
international referral training company.