4 Tips to Holiday Networking

holidaynetworkingI’ll just say this upfront: I’m not a fan of networking events. While I am a complete and total extrovert who actually enjoys the thrill of public speaking, I can never seem to get excited about general networking, especially during the holidays. As the mom of three, my calendar is already packed with holiday obligations and as my children get older, quality family time is at an all-time minimum.

But, as an entrepreneur, I realize the value of networking and holiday social events have actually become one of my best-kept business building secrets. Here are my tips for making the most wonderful time of the year one of the best networking seasons of all:

 

Say Yes
Although your holiday dance card may seem pretty full this season, never miss an opportunity to network with colleagues, friends, clients and potential business partners. Holiday events tend to bring out people who rarely attend other networking affairs, giving you an opportunity to meet decision-makers in a comfortable, social setting.   In addition, the relaxed atmosphere is perfect for reconnecting with clients and business acquaintances allowing you to get to know them—and for them to know you—a little better. Overwhelmed with all the social gathering requests? Go to those events that best align with your professional and personal goals.

 

Plan in Advance
Set a goal of how many new people you are going to meet and connect with before you even get to the social event. Networking experts suggest a goal of meeting between 3-5 people per each event.   “Do your research before going so you know something about those you might meet,” suggests Andrea Nierenberg in a blog post for Monster.com.   The key is “connect with”—not “sell to”. Instead of thinking about what each person can do for you, think about what you can do for them.

 

Watch Your Holiday “Cheer”
The beverages may be flowing more than usual during holiday networking events, but don’t let that be an excuse for you to over indulge. The festive spirit may make you forget that you are there to broaden your network, connect with clients and possibly even learn something that will help you grow your business. Keep yourself to a two-drink maximum, drinking a glass of water between each cocktail and be sure to fill up on healthy foods while you are mingling.  Alcohol and an empty stomach are never a good combination.

 

Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up
The key to successful networking is in the follow up and holiday gatherings are no exception. As soon as the event is over, send a handwritten note to each personal connection you have made and offer a way that you can be of service to them such as recommending a book or blog post you think they would enjoy or connecting them with someone you think they should know. If your budget allows, treat them to something special such as a $5 Starbucks gift card. After the first of the year, send a “Happy New Year” email to remind them of the connection and hopefully make plans to meet again in 2016.

 

 

 

 

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by Patti Minglin
@PattiMinglin

 

 

 

image courtesy of flickr CC/Christian Lendl