We all know it is important to have a plan to get through the holidays without losing our minds or gaining a few pounds! Have you considered the importance of also having a plan for navigating and networking during your Holiday parties?
Networking is the lifeblood of business. Whether we embrace it or cringe at the very thought of it, we all know we need to do it. Holiday parties can be a great time to affirm existing relationships, re-establish lost contacts and make new professional connections. Whether you are a seasoned networker who loves to mix and mingle, or someone who absolutely dreads making the rounds at the company holiday party, pre-planning your strategy will ensure you walk away with a few new contacts and the sweet feeling of success this season.
First, have a goal in mind. Do you want to meet five new people? Exchange business cards with three people you can schedule time with in the next few weeks? or Finally approach that “influencer” in the office about scheduling time for coffee? The point is to have a goal and stick to it.
Second, ask open ended questions. At a networking event, ask others their reason for attending and look for commonalities to spark further conversation. At an office holiday party, ask others about themselves, e.g. What do they enjoy the most about their work? Or, what skills have they found most important for success in their role? Or, are you a member of any professional organizations, how do you benefit from membership? This can be a great way to develop some new resources and “go-to” people in the workplace, we all need to leverage others’ expertise at some point.
Next, don’t get stuck! Force yourself to talk to new people. Set a time limit on your interactions with interesting new connections as well as old acquaintances who try to monopolize your time. One simple strategy could be to remain standing; it will be easier to move on to new people (and you will burn more calories!). Keep in mind it is better to approach a group of three or more as it is more likely to be a general discussion. Remember your goal and find a way to engage with additional people in the room.
Finally have an exit strategy. It might be ending a single conversation or a way to make an inconspicuous or early exit. A bit of pre-planning will allow a graceful exit no matter the situation.
You can successfully expand your network while making the most of the holiday party season. Ensure you have a networking goal, engage with those outside your comfort zone, ask open ended questions, and have an exit strategy. Oh…and a little extra planning for food and drink choices will help keep holiday weight gain at bay. Mindfulness works with navigating a networking event as well as watching your waistline!
Empower yourself, have a plan, have fun.