It’s that time of year. Sleigh bells ring (or Salvation Army bells, at least), both halls and malls are decked, and you’re tearing your home apart looking for your ugly sweater because the invitations to various Christmas/Festivus/holiday parties are pouring in. While you may count on knowing most of the fellow guests at the parties of friends and families, work or industry gatherings can be a different breed where you may not recognize most of the names on the guest list – and that’s a good thing! Holiday parties are a great chance to network at the end of the year in a more festive setting and result in some new contacts to work with in the new year. Not sure how to go about it? These tips should help (at holiday parties and throughout the year).
- Bring a friend… but plan to make new ones. The buddy system can keep you confident going into any party (especially if your buddy is a networking pro who can make some introductions!), but don’t let that keep you from meeting some new people. Go to the party together, get situated with some drinks and snacks, then split for a while. Talking to each other all night defeats the purpose of networking, so agree to catch up periodically, but make sure you’re dividing and conquering.
- Go with a goal. Setting a goal for yourself before heading to your soiree will give you some direction and can keep you from getting overwhelmed. You don’t have to talk to all 70 people in the room (but props if you can!). Instead, focus on connecting with at least three people that you could work with in the new year (either as a colleague or a client). If you’re going with your work bestie, maybe engage in some friendly competition to see who can make more contacts.
- Use the party theme to your advantage. Gatsby? Ugly sweater? Toys for charity? Fantastic: you have a built-in ice-breaker. In general, you might not want to jump right into an elevator pitch about yourself and/or your organization when at a networking event. This is holds even more true at end-of-year gatherings where the atmosphere is more relaxed. When everyone is following the festive dress code or bringing a gift, you have a common ground to kick off a conversation. Go ahead and ask that guy at the check-in desk where he got his light-up ugly sweater. Once you’ve established a rapport it’s easier to talk about work backgrounds and goals.
- The easiest way into someone’s heart (or conversation) is through food. Everybody eats. If you’re unsure of how to break into a conversation, go where the traffic is. Waiting for a beverage at the bar or loading up your plate at the buffet are great opportunities to say hi to the person standing next to you, talk about the party’s charity of choice, or ask about that light-up ugly sweater. Remember: you’re all there for the same reason.
- Don’t forget business cards! We may live online today, but business cards still matter – especially if you’re meeting several new people in just a few hours. Treat them as invitations, not trading cards. Offer them to people you genuinely want to connect with, and follow up on the ones you receive, rather than just filing them away in your desk. Take the time to email, Tweet, or LinkedIn message your next contacts to stay in touch and build a solid network.
Holiday parties are a wonderful way to celebrate year’s end, reconnect with old colleagues and make some new ones. Need a place to try out the tips and hone your networking skills? Good news: the Pub Club and PRSA happen to be hosting our annual Holiday ‘Sparkle’ Mixer for Greater Boston’s PR Community this Wednesday, December 7. Convenient, right? Ugly sweaters and charitable donations are welcome. You can buy tickets via Eventbrite here, and we look forward to meeting you there.
Interested in learning more?
Throughout the year, the Publicity Club of New England puts together organizational tours, networking events, and presentations and panels featuring industry experts. Check out our program archive to learn more.