Thursday, December 6, 2012

Business Holiday Parties - Be Merry and Mingle

It's that time of year.  Happy hours, holiday luncheons, and full blown parties are under way.  The larger your client and strategic partner database, the more invitations pour in.  It can be tough to choose which ones to attend.  But in my opinion, go to as many as you possibly can!

There's no better time for connecting with your business relationships and making them more personable.  These events also create great opportunities to make new connections.  You never know where you'll meet your next client, right?

That said, I read this Top 5 list from Kaufman, Rossin & Co on how to network at holiday parties.  This was a good list, make no mistake.  But one of the points I disagree with...enough so that I thought I'd blog about it.

They suggest looking for centers of influence and trying to break into the conversation.  I don't know about you, but most people get intimidated trying to break into a conversation they're not really a part of.  And even if they ARE able to break in, their presence isn't always valued.

I've been attending networking events for over a decade, and I can tell you that my number one tip is to do the opposite!  It doesn't matter if you already know people in the crowd or not.  Look for a party-goer who is standing alone, off to the side, or looking a little lost.  

Approach that person with a warm smile and introduce yourself.  You'll find yourself in a conversation with a person who is very grateful not to be the lone wolf at the party anymore.  Whether you only talk for a few minutes or if you end up chatting the night away depends on how well you click with that person.  But either way, they will have a high opinion of you simply because you reached out and offered a friendly "hello."  

Personally, I've met some of the most interesting people that way.  After all, just because they don't know anyone in THAT crowd doesn't mean they aren't interesting, influential, or a good person to know!

All that said, the Kaufman, Rossin, & Co. blog post offered one tip that I happen to agree with wholeheartedly:

Follow up!

We've all made the mistake of collecting a business card and then losing it in the mix.  There's no sense beating ourselves up over it.  But make it a point to be intentional with your follow up!  

I found that dropping them an email or a personalized card the next day goes a long way towards maintaining the new bond you started to form with that person at the event.  

And hey...if you drop the ball on follow up...don't worry!  All is not lost!  Don't be afraid to pick up the phone or drop an email even if a significant amount of time has passed.  No, it's NOT ideal.  But you just never know.

I had a woman call me months after meeting at an event.  She said she found my card and thought she'd follow up even though I might not remember her.  I DID remember her.  And I was impressed that she didn't just fall into the assumption that too much time had passed and etiquette dictates she forget about me.  That couldn't have been a comfortable phone call to make.  And I'm always impressed when people step outside of their comfort zone.

Anyway, that's all for now.  I'm back to creating my Christmas cards!

Until Next Time, 

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