Networking at Christmas parties - dos and don’ts

It's the most wonderful time of the year... for networking! During the festive season, opportunities to network with other business owners are abundant - Christmas parties, awards ceremonies and events seem to pop up everywhere.

However, if you are one of the many people who cringe at the thought of face-to-face networking, it's hard to think of these events as a golden opportunity for your business, and far easier to dread any potential awkward conversations! Fear not! This guide to the 'dos and don'ts' of face-to-face networking will help you to make the most of the festive season for the good of your business.

Networking Dos:

  • If you're standing on your own in a room full of strangers feeling nervous, think about how you would feel if someone came and introduced themselves to you – pretty relieved eh? So pluck up some courage, look around the room and you are guaranteed to spot plenty of people in exactly the same position. Everyone's a winner!
  • Have an 'elevator pitch' in place – but be very careful not to be too rehearsed or you'll sound insincere. Use it only as a guide to quickly and effectively explain what your business does and what opportunities/partnerships you are looking for.
  • Have plenty of business cards on you, but more importantly, make sure you collect other people's. It is often a good idea to offer your card during a conversation, that way the other person either feels compelled to offer you theirs, or it will at least give you the lead in to ask if it is not forthcoming!
  • Make sure you follow up quickly after the event – a quick email to say 'nice to meet you' or even better – send a LinkedIn invite and build your network of contacts at the same time!

Networking Don'ts

  • Butting into existing conversations is the worst of networking faux pas. There is nothing worse than someone jumping in with a big 'hi!' when you are mid-conversation in a useful discussion – don't do it!
  • Even if you are really enjoying a conversation with someone, don't hog them for too long or you could end up missing lots of other potential contacts in the room (or making them miss some)! The best way to network is establish a mutual interest, make the connection (exchange cards) and arrange to follow up over a coffee or phone call away from the event at a later date.
  • Don't do all the talking! You can gain a lot more information and assess a potential partnership/opportunity by listening to what is being said.
  • Don't waste time stuck talking to someone you have no common ground with. Don't be afraid to step away from the conversation. You should do it tactfully and politely - perhaps introduce someone else in the conversation and step out - but be decisive.

And one final note on networking – remember, you aren't just selling to the people in the room! Every single person there will have their own personal network. Make a good impression using the tips above and they are likely to be happy to introduce you to people outside of the room – that's what networking is all about!

Matt Perkins works in FreeAgent's Business Development Team, and spends his days travelling the country to meet small business owners and organisations; in fact he does more networking than a fisherman's repair service.

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