The holiday season is the best time to get out to local networking events to meet new people and see old friends. Get started by reviewing your inbox (and spam folders) for invites you might have missed. Follow this by checking Facebook facebook.com/events for invites and ideas. RSVP and get out there.
8 Holiday Networking Tips
1. Smiles are contagious. Even if you are nervous, your smile will tell people you are friendly and happy to meet new people.
2. Be nice. Avoid gossip or trashing talking anyone. Look for ways you can help the people you meet. Maybe you can provide an introduction during the event you are attending.
3. Set goals. Think about why you are attending the event. You aren't just attending for the free h'orderves and cocktails. What do you hope to gain by attending? Who do you wish to meet? What would you like the outcome to be?
4. Avoid too many h'orderves and cocktails. This is pretty obvious, but we all know that guy who misses the memo each year. Should you have one too many take a cab or Uber home. Better yet… don't drive to the event in the first place.
5. Talk to strangers. Get away from the usual crowd to meet new people. The people standing alone don't wish to be alone. If they wanted to be alone they would have stayed home. Go introduce yourself and ask them what brings them to the event.
6. Ask questions and listen. When you ask someone a question, be sure to look them in the eyes as they are answering. Make them feel like they are the only person in the room. Ask a follow-up question like, "How did that make you feel?" or "What happened next?"
7. Don't be a Las Vegas blackjack dealer with your business cards. Ask for someone's business card after you have talked and a connection has been made. Just because you asked where the bathroom is, is not an opportunity to ask for a card. Save some trees by refraining from handing out your cards, unless you are asked for one. Someone else's card is far more valuable because you have their information to follow-up. Otherwise, you are left hoping they follow-up with you.
8. Follow up. I wrote a post here recently about the importance of following up. Following up is the second most important part of networking after showing up. The longer you leave it, the less likely you will reconnect with the person. This is a wasted opportunity to help them and build a new relationship.
This article originally appeared in The Tennessean Newspaper.