Chances are you’re going to be at all kinds of holiday parties this year, and if they’re not Aunt Gladice’s tree trimming party, they are probably business related functions. Instead of making cocktails, maybe you should make contacts instead. Here’s a few tips on how to make the most out of these festive occasions through networking.
#1 Have a Plan
Not all parties are created equal so make sure you have an agenda for the evening. Ask yourself what your goals are. Are you looking for a partner, an investor, or just looking to get educated or inspired? Asking yourself these questions will help put you in the right frame of mind while mingling and will turn that party into possibilities.
#2 Be Your Own Wing-man
Yeah, it’s always great to bring a buddy with you to social gatherings, but doing so hinders you from meeting new people. When you go at it alone, you’re more likely to interact with others and are less intimidating to approach.
#3 Work the Room
Step out of your shell and meet as many people as you can at these events. Simple math will tell you that the more people you meet, the greater the likelihood of striking networking gold. Here’s a tip: Don’t spend more than 5 to 7 minutes per conversation. That’s all the longer it takes to figure out what the person in front of you is about and if you guys could be beneficial to each other in any way.
#4 Jot Down Some Notes
This is a tried and true strategy. It’s nearly impossible to remember the specifics about everyone you meet at parties, so the best thing you can do is take down a few key notes on the back of their business card, but don’t do it in front of them. Directly after leaving the conversation find a discreet place to take down a few notes. Don’t have that luxury? Put in a few keywords on your phone’s “notes” section and it’ll look like you’re sending a text.
#5 Watch What You Sip
Moderation is key and for good reason. Yes, there’s usually a nice selection of beers and wines to choose from at these events, but that doesn’t mean you need to drink them all. Yes, alcohol can make it easier to loosen up, but too much and you’ll wake up the next morning wondering, “What did I say to those people?” Don’t be that guy (or gal.)
#6 Follow Up
This is the most important step in making new connections, but is almost always one of the more difficult steps to actually complete. To make things feel less awkward when following up, reference a highlight of the party in your email, tweet, Facebook, or whatever. In addition to following up with your new contacts, be sure to thank the hosts of the party for inviting you, too. It’s a nice way to show them you appreciate their hard work and will hopefully land you in their good graces so that you’ll be invited to their next big shindig!
#7 Put that Contact in Your CRM System ASAP
Just because you have your contact's card with some notes on the back, doesn't mean you're making the most out of that information. Put all your contacts from the evening into your CRM system to keep them organzied and protected from the washing machine. This extra step will help you in the future if that contact becomes a client, a sponsor, or a great golf buddy. If you're worried you're going to make duplicates try cleaning up your data with Cloudingo or stopping duplicates at the point of entry with Dupecatcher.