The holiday season is upon us. This time of year provides great opportunities for networking. There are company parties, client gatherings, SMPS socials, church get-togethers, neighborhood block parties, and the list goes on. Some people love getting out to all the parties and social activities. But, for others, it adds to the stress of the season. So, my present to you this year is a list of 12 tips to make networking less stressful.
- Be prepared. Find out who will be at the events you’re attending. Make a list (mental or actual) of the people you want to meet at each event.
- It’s about time. Arrive early to maximize your networking opportunities. Be the last to leave. People are more relaxed and tend to be more transparent near the end of an event.
- Go your own way. Remember, you’re there to meet new people, so split up from your friends and business associates. Don’t talk to the same people. Take a risk and meet people to forge new relationships.
- Empty has no value. Don’t sit at an empty table or stand by yourself.
- Come out of your shell. Shyness is not a genetic trait; it’s a habit that can be overcome. Remember, there are no strangers, just friends we haven’t met. So practice how to introduce yourself and dive in. Have a few open-ended questions ready to ask to get people talking.
- Work the room comfortably. Every room has energy points (registration table, refreshment areas, entertainment areas, etc.). Maximize your ability to work these energy points by identifying the flow and allowing the energy to pull you around the room.
- Names are valuable information. Use them and remember them.
- Make a first impression last. Handshakes are important and are one of the first impressions you make. No wimpy handshakes. Make eye contact and match the pressure of the other person.
- Listen, listen, listen! Hang on to every word as if the person talking is sharing the most important information you have ever heard.
- Don’t butt in or be rude. Don’t interrupt people when you see them networking. Wait for a break in the conversation.
- Character counts. Always be on your best behavior. Don’t gossip or use foul language or off-color humor. Remember networking circles are big. You never know who that person in front of you may know.
- Follow up. This is the most important aspect of networking. If you promised something to someone at an event, make sure you do it. My rule of thumb is a two-day window to follow up. Proper follow-up will enhance your reputation.
Take advantage of the holidays to expand your network and reconnect with contacts. These gatherings are a great opportunity to build relationships. Spend part of each event reaching out and talking to someone new and you’ll be building your network and making contacts that can extend into next year.
Barbara Stiles, FSMPS, CPSM, serves on the SMPS board of directors as secretary-treasurer. She is vice president of business planning for Wantman Group, Inc. She can be reached at email@example.com.