Holiday parties are plentiful for business professionals. Whether you are invited to your own firm’s glittering bash, a client’s holiday open house or a referral source’s festive breakfast, take a few minutes to think about how to turn holiday cheer into fruitful business opportunities.
Networking is all about synergy and giving … enhancing business for yourself and others by bringing talents and skills to the table that are otherwise missing. Networking is not a buffet where you seek to walk away with an abundance (of leads or fee-generating work), but rather, a potluck supper where everyone shares in the harvest.
- BE STRATEGIC
Unless you’re a politician, you don’t have to meet everyone in the room to be successful. Instead, try to connect with a handful of people in a meaningful way. Look for those with whom you may have synergy. Holiday gatherings often open the door to meeting people beyond your conventional business and social circles. While lawyers, for instance, sometimes shy away from networking with other lawyers and bar association functions, meeting the opposing counsel from a recent case who was impressed by your legal acumen may result in future referrals.
- DO YOUR HOMEWORK
Know what awaits you … in terms of setting, attendees, speakers and format. Are you one of many people invited from your company to this holiday get-together or the sole representative?
Adopt a positive attitude; people can sense if you are feeling friendly and open to their messages. Rehearse your own 30-second commercial. Remember to focus on the real benefits and offerings you can bring to the table; nobody wants to hear a sales pitch at a holiday-themed gathering.
- FOCUS ON NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATIONS
Non-verbal cues convey attitude, understanding, empathy, ethics and passion. Success in business is often based on the ability to communicate. Eye contact is the barometer of communications: if you want to know if people are truly listening to you, look into their eyes. Adding a smile and a handshake to stellar eye contact is the ultimate in communication. And don’t forget to dress up a bit if you know that your host is decking the halls.
- CONNECT WITH ATTENDEES
A roomful of people can be daunting. Start by initiating handshakes and repeating the names of the people you meet. Listen first, talk later. Ask questions; people love to talk about themselves.
Connecting with fellow revelers is all about building relationships based on common ground and mutual need. Since the line between our business and personal lives is often blurry, look for synergy at every turn. Ask what others do outside the workplace, where they went to school, or what trends they are seeing in the economy. Remember, people like to do business with people they like.
- DON’T FORGET THE FOLLOW-UP
The key to turning a positive networking conversation into an actual fee-generating client, hot prospect or dynamic referral source is follow-up. Merely making a simple follow-up gesture – via e-mails, social media connections, hand-written notes or phone calls – says good things about you and your organization.
During the holidays, we are inundated by cheerful greetings in the form of traditional cards and mass e-mail blasts. Look for ways to make your follow-up stand out: send an article of interest, offer to make an introduction to a potential client or customer, or alert your newfound friend to another networking event, all where you have no immediate opportunity for gain!
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