Updated: Sep 1
When you meet a potential contact at a business event, there is a mutual understanding of what comes next. You deliver your elevator pitch and set up a time to talk more. However, when you run into someone interesting at a social gathering, things can become more complicated, especially for the more introverted among us.
With the holidays upon us, there are plenty of occasions to make authentic connections and build your professional network. How can you take advantage of opportunities at parties and network in a way that you feel good about?
Use these tips to make connections that will help you build your network and advance your career.
The best way to approach any kind of networking is with an attitude of service. Think about how you might you be able to serve the person you are talking to, rather than how they might help you.
Share information. Maybe you’ll find a natural opening for discussing trends in your industry or demonstrating your expertise. Maybe you’ll accomplish more by explaining how to grow tomatoes in the shade or recommending a great show you found on Netflix.
Offer referrals. Share businesses and services you like and see if there is an opportunity to offer to spread the word about the business of the person you are speaking with. Personal testimonials are more reliable than online reviews.
Pitch in. Passing around food trays, registering guests, or joining the party planning committee is a great way to make mingling easier whether at friends’ parties or those put on by the company or an organization you belong to. Your contributions will be remembered.
Pay attention. Simple gestures count too. You can make a positive impression just by listening closely to what other guests have to say. Ask relevant questions and focus on their message instead of preparing your own response.
Show enthusiasm. Others will find you more attractive if you’re having fun. Check that your body language is warm and friendly. Use smiles and eye contact to let others know that you welcome conversation.
The object of networking at social events is to meet people with whom you are interested in building a relationship. This happens after the party.
Ask your friends. If you and someone you just met have contacts in common, you may be able to rely on these friends to help you stay in touch. That can help avoid any awkwardness in the moment when an exchange of business cards doesn’t feel right.
Explore mutual interests. Your initial conversation may also reveal areas of common ground. Building relationships is often most successful when you have regular interactions like attending the same gym or volunteering at the same community center.
Exchange contact information. Before you hand out any business cards, assess the situation to see if you’re going too far too fast. If your new contact seems receptive, instead of a business card, you might offer your phone number or email, and suggest a casual coffee date.
Other Tips for Networking at Social Events
Practice regularly. Networking skills can be developed. Chatting with other dog-owners at the park is a low-risk way to train for more challenging professional communications.
Take the pressure off. Don’t expect anything magical to happens in one conversation. Enjoy the process; the object is connect with people that interest you and with whom you want to build a relationship.
Focus on quality. Networking is usually more rewarding when you concentrate on who you’re talking with now instead of trying to work the whole room. A small number of mutually supportive relationships is more valuable than having a lot of superficial contacts.
Circulate more. It will be easier to allow relationships to develop gradually and naturally if you feel like you have an abundance of opportunities. Experiment with accepting more invitations and hosting your own gatherings. See what a difference it can make in widening your circle.
Respect boundaries. Be sensitive to the purpose of any event and the comfort level of others. Honoring their needs will help you to make a positive impression.
Strengthen your network by learning how to use social events to build relationships.
You’ll be helping yourself and others as long as you take a genuine and generous approach.