In today’s post, Learning & Development partner Linda Taylor shares many helpful tips for creating strong networking connections during the busy Holiday season.
Around this time of year, people willingly (or not so willingly) attend company parties, get together with friends and neighbors and usually spend a day or two with their families. Many people stress about the pressure to make small talk and socialize, especially when they are attending a function with their spouse or significant other.
Here’s an idea that I came across recently: “Be more concerned with being interested than being interesting.” So, immediately, this strategy calls for us to be attentive listeners. Now, that may not be too hard if only you can get people to talk in the first place! When possible and appropriate, take a quick peek at LinkedIn or Facebook and review the basic facts about someone you know you’ll meet at a party.
For instance, look over their education and former employers so you can say, “Hey, I see you are a Tar Heel, too!” or “So I understand you used to live in Dallas. What was that like?” As people speak, listen for hints as to their passions. You may probe further as long as it’s not intrusive. Later, if you run across an article about something that might interest them, pass it along. They’ll be flattered that you remembered.
But what if you don’t have access to people’s backgrounds beforehand? You may inquire of your host and ask for an introduction. Or simply go up and introduce yourself and ask what their connection is to the host or hostess. “Hi, I’m Jack, I work with Phoebe in the accounting department over at Widgets International. How do you know the Baileys?” They’ll likely tell you a story about how they met and you can build on that from there. It goes without saying that you’ll always want to make sure to speak well of everyone.
A little mingling etiquette:
- If you are approaching someone standing alone, walk up and put out your hand while introducing yourself and asking for their name.
- If you are approaching two people talking, be more cautious as they may be holding a private conversation.
- If you are approaching a group of people, simply slide in on the periphery and say hello to the closest person. Ease into the conversation gently and respectfully.
- When you need to need to extricate yourself, say “Excuse me…I need to freshen my drink” or “Excuse me…I see an old friend I’d like to greet; it has been a pleasure to meet you.”
Always have a ready supply of non-controversial topics at the ready – positive current events (like what’s happening in your home town, sporting news, a play or movie you would recommend or a funny story about how your GPS took you far from your desired destination.) Dwelling on negative events creates a poor image and leaves you nowhere to take the conversation from there. As a last resort, comment about the weather and ask the other person what he/she thinks.
Going back to the beginning: the reason so many people dread socializing and small talk is that they are worried about being witty and impressive. Instead, this season, focus on others and you’ll have less stress and more fun. Remember – getting someone to talk about themselves allows them to discuss their favorite subject. Encourage that and watch the conversation grow from there!
For any further tips on how to effectively network during the Holiday season, please give our Advice and Resolution Team a call at 919-878-9222 or 336-668-7746.