Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Event Networking Tips & Beyond

'Tis truly the season of holiday parties. I've been to three lawyer related holiday gatherings in the last week, with two more this week. It's not that I've been on the lookout for people violating the basic rules for holiday parties or for event networking, but I've noticed that generally a lot of people seem to be comfortable, meeting new people and having a good time. If you are not yet one of those people, here are some quick suggestions that go beyond the good advice about limiting your alcohol intake and dressing appropriately. That advice and these suggestions apply to all events anytime anywhere.

Before you go:
Identify the returns before you go. Knowing why you are going and what you want will motivate you to make the most of the event.

Practice your self introduction and read up on the day's news. Starting a conversation can be as easy as saying something about the event or the facility or asking what drew the other person to the event.

Put your business cards in your suit pocket or outer pocket of your purse. Always keeps some in your car in case you forget some for your suit or your purse, or you attend an event on the spur of the moment.

Arrive Early:
Scan the name tags on the registration table. Meet the organizers and host. Consider how you can help the event be a success. Put your name tag on your right lapel or to the right of where it would be. This makes it easier for people to read as they extend their hand to shake yours. Meet other people as they arrive, before they start breaking into groups.

During the event:
Focus on others instead of yourself. Try one of the following. Be gracious, act like a host, approach those standing alone and put them at ease. Connect people with others in the room. Have energetic conversations. Ask questions to engage people in something that interests them. This usually includes themselves. "How did you get started in your business? How would I know if I am speaking to a potential client of yours? What is your biggest challenge?" Listen well and twice as much as you speak.

If no one is standing alone, look for groups of 3 or more to join. People tend to pair up. A group with an odd number can be easier to join. Does someone appear to be disengaged in the conversation? Introduce yourself to that person. If you feel uncomfortable, move on and find ways to help other people.

Start conversations with people while in line for the food or bar. Smile and say hello, even if you are just passing someone. Spend time getting to know new people. You can talk with your friends and colleagues another time. Keep in mind your purposes for attending the event. Get the business cards of the people with whom you feel a strong connection. You do not have to get cards from everyone.

After the event:
Congratulate yourself for going, for arriving early and for what you did well. Consider how you can do things differently next time. Record notes and contact information for those people with whom you felt a connection. Follow up with them in timely, appropriate ways.

Best wishes for your holiday events!