"Holiday Office Parties"Tips for Maximizing Holiday Networking

Get ready ladies, because it’s here — the Holiday Party Season. Many dread the often hectic schedule of December, as seemingly every company and organization hosts a lunch or cocktail party for their customers, clients, prospects, employees, suppliers, members and friends.

It’s true that this annual ritual of party hopping can add inches to your waist-line while stealing precious hours of down-time. But it can also be a great time to meet new people and solidify your existing business relationships. Take advantage of holiday get-togethers to build rapport with others in your business community or industry.

To maximize your holiday networking effort, here are five:

1. Always RSVP if you are invited to an event. If you have a conflict that prevents you from attending, let the host know. Never respond that you will attend unless you are certain that you actually will. The catering bill is decided based on a guaranteed number that the company must provide in advance. When you RSVP that you will attend and then skip out, you can be sure that the host paid more for their party than necessary.

2. When you arrive at the event, first seek out the host. Be sure to thank them for including you as a guest at their party. Many organizations are proud of their holiday parties, and having someone express gratitude goes a long way. It takes no time to say “thank you,” and it will make you stand out from the majority of people who come just to eat and drink and talk to friends.

3. Take advantage of the festive attitude of the holiday season and introduce yourself to new people at gatherings. Do not solely spend your time with those you already know. Have conversation starters ready – a list of questions that will draw people out and allow you to discover mutual connections. Conversation starters can address both professional and personal topics; for example “What are your company’s biggest challenges going into the new year?” or “How are you and your family spending the holidays?”

4. Do not drink too much! The lure of the delicious food and free flowing spirits can get your “inner party girl” rocking, but you need to remember that you are at a business event and a representative of your company. Every holiday season there are stories floating around of someone who made a spectacle of themselves by over indulging at an event. Don’t let this be you!

5. In the days following a holiday party, take the time to follow up with a note to the people that you met – prompt follow up often makes or breaks a new relationship. No matter how good of a conversation you had at the party, that alone is not enough to make them part of your network – you need to build on the initial connection. Additionally, take the extra step of sending a thank you note to your host. You will stand out, as most who attended the party will not take the time to do so! Happy Holidays and Happy Networking!

Marny Lifshen is an Austin-based marketing communication consultant, author and speaker.  She is the author of the award-winning Some Assembly Required: A Networking Guide for Women and is a leading expert on networking and personal branding for professional women.  She has more than 20 years of experience as a seasoned key note speaker, break-out session leader for conferences and events across the country. Marny can be reached at www.marnylifshen.com .

This an other seasonal articles can be found in the 2012 Holiday Gift Giving Guide  (PDF). You can also read the Flip Version .