We all know it’s the time of year when work slows down, when we start working from home a little more and look forward to at least a few days off. And while holiday parties—those ubiquitous get togethers that force us into rooms filled with people we don’t know while wearing horrifying sweaters we wouldn’t be caught dead in otherwise—may seem like a very announcement of everyone “taking it easy,” don’t be fooled. Holiday parties are great places to network where people are off their guard, where they’ve had a few, and it might be easier to connect with them than otherwise.
But how do you do it? Networking can be awkward enough without trying to do it subtly at a non-networking affair. And, obviously, you don’t want it to be too difficult; you do deserve a break, after all. Instead, it’s all about the moment, about seizing the awkward and having the tools you need to make the connect as simple as possible.
Tips for Networking at a Holiday Party
- Use the Awkward “You… meet him” situation to your advantage. Meeting someone via a third party who’s trying to get to the punchbowl as quickly as possible can be a great opportunity to get to know them. Use the opportunity to assess your new “friend”’s usefulness with small talk and, if they’re ripe for productive connection, go in for the kill.
- “Drunk” is not “Off Limits.” While you’ll want to keep it together (because, really, you should always keep in together around possible colleagues), going after connects who’ve hit the ‘nog can be a good idea. They’ll be talkative, open, and ripe to make new relationships.
- Use Secret Santa to Your Advantage. If you happen to play “Secret Santa,” make a note of gifts received by people you’d like to connect with. These gifts—whether neat, awkward, or otherwise unintelligibly strange—are great ice-breakers and can lead to quick inroads with new contacts.
- Don’t Go Crazy Beneath the Mistletoe. I know that it’s a party, but if you want to make professional contacts, it’s really not advisable to kiss anyone under the mistletoe (unless you arrived with them). While a party is, socially, a great place to meet a new partner, keep your business and your pleasure separate, even at Christmas.
- Dumb Party Games May Give You the Info You Need. Watching people participate (or refuse to) in party games can tell you a lot about how they work with teams, tackle problems, whether they’re sore winners or losers, and utilize resources. If you’re on the fence about whether or not you’d like to connect with them, watching how they work in situations like this can be the tipping point to a new relationship (or steering the heck away from one).
- Use CircleBack to Make Connecting Easy. With CircleBack, networking takes no time at all. Because you can link multiple networks (email, Facebook, Twitter, etc), scan business cards, and create contacts from email signatures, you have options for solidifying your new connection.
So don’t let the holiday parties blur into another year of eggnog-soaked half memories of bad sweaters and green pepper jelly. Instead, use the opportunity and turn the awkward conversation shuffle into actionable contacts. Make it count this year.