It’s that time of year again…holiday party time! While they are intended for fun and celebration, holiday parties can be networking gold mines—you never know who you’ll meet, and it’s a different venue of interaction that doesn’t feel like a conference or a business dinner.
Here are some strategies I've developed along the way to make the most of your holiday party:
Have an interesting thought piece on the company or organization ready. Check LinkedIn to see people connected to the company that you may want to meet, or any articles that are relevant to the organization. Have a dynamic story about why you are there.
The best conversation starter is "How are you connected to…” or "What brings you to this event?" You can quickly get to what the person’s relationship to the host is, which will give you lots of insight into their work industry, interests and experience. Resist doing what we New Yorkers tend to resort to by asking, “What do you do for work?”
For those of you who are introverted, I love what writer, therapist and coach Tamara Green encourages: Be honest and say "Hi! I'm Abby Raphel and I said I would meet three people tonight…you are the first one!" Make it light, heartfelt and funny. It's about quality of the conversations, not about quantity! After all, you want them to remember you when you follow up!
Networking is about kickstarting the relationship. You don't have to have a full ask and goals prepared for a short conversation. Get enough traction that you can be thoughtful in your follow up. Try to also find out something personal or unique about hobbies, vacations and family that could create a bond and connection outside of the traditional work role. Especially with the rate at which people are changing jobs, making meaningful connections that stand apart from professional contexts will serve you well in the long run.
Follow up. The best follow-ups trigger the memory and help the person you met remember and identify you. Sharing a blog or recent article that pertains to a subject you discussed at the party will show that you remembered their interest. Don't go overboard with your follow up- to build the relationship you should try for an in-person meeting at a later date. Especially around the holidays, people are busy. Ask for an in-person coffee, lunch, or drink to re-connect in the new year.
If you don't get a response right away, find something relevant to the event at which you met or the conversation that you had and send it as a reminder. For example, "Hi Alex, It was great to meet you at the holiday IC party a few weeks ago. This article just came out about them and it reminded me of you..."
For all of us who are passionate about the social impact sector- holiday parties are triple-bottom line gold mines- they can fulfill a work commitment, networking opportunity and can be lots of fun!