10 Tips for Networking During the Holidays

There are a number of seasonal strategies that you can employ to enhance your business relationships, boost your personal brand and strengthen your bottom line. As people tend to be more relaxed during this time of the year, take advantage of these circumstances by reaching out and interacting with various individuals. As a small business or a job hunter, you have the ability to establish strong face-to-face relationships, and the holidays are the perfect time to leverage that advantage. Most local industry organisations and business associations host holiday networking events. This is the perfect opportunity to go out, have fun, meet people and identify business opportunities. Here are a few networking tips to help make the holidays even better for business:

Tip One: Attend Holiday Parties

While your tendency may be to take a break from networking events during the holidays, it’s important for you to continue attending events. Many organisations and individuals will be having holiday parties rather than typical business events. Holiday parties are a great way to get to know people in a more relaxed environment.

Like any time of the year, accept people’s hospitality. If someone offers you something, don’t turn it down. By accepting people’s generosity, you are showing them respect and will make them feel like they are doing something kind. The same business etiquette should apply. Have fun and consider these parties as your reward for working so hard during the year to build relationships.

Tip Two: Hold Your Own Party

It is essential to be generous, have a true spirit of giving, and make all honest efforts to liven up the holiday spirit of the people. If there is no party, be the party. If networking events are limited this year, consider throwing your own. You can have your own holiday party either at your house, a restaurant or a bar.

Having your own party is a great way to reconnect and keep yourself in front of people. A big part of networking effectively is keeping yourself visible. People will see you as a connector. Your party can enhance your personal brand and widen your business circle. It’s also a great excuse to reach out to potential clients and high- level decision makers.

Tip Three: Send Holiday Greetings

In business networking, it is essential to find methods to stay connected continually with important associates. Thus, holiday greeting cards are a great way to register on your client’s or contact’s radar. Whether by e-mail or post, it doesn’t matter how you send your greeting.

As long as you send a greeting, you are showing individuals in your network that you are thinking about them. Try to send holiday cards out a bit early as many people take time off work around the holidays. In most cases a religion-neutral holiday card is appropriate.

Tip Four: Personal Networking

Reach out to various people during the holidays. For some people, business tends to slow down during the holidays and they will have the time to meet with you. Be proactive and reach out to people you haven’t connected with in a while.

These individuals will appreciate being thought about and you will have the chance to build these relationships even more. Use the holiday time to have one-on-one meetings with your networking partners “to catch up”, “swap some ideas”, “pick their brains”, or “share an interesting lead”.

Tip Five: Don’t Always Talk About Business

During any conversation, you shouldn’t always talk about business because you want to get to know people on a personal level as well. In order to build relationships, you need to know various aspects about their lives.

The holidays are a great time of year to get to know people on a more personal level. When meeting people at holiday events or getting together with existing contacts, spend more time socialising and getting to know them outside of business. Remember networking is not socializing…it is relationship building. Small talk and social interaction is the glue in the relationship.

Tip Six: Show Generosity

During the holidays, people are generally in a good mood because they enjoy the spirit of the season. Spend more time with family and friends and look forward to starting a new year. You will find that many of these people are in the giving mood.

Make sure you are also in the giving mood. Take people out to lunch or buy co-workers, friends and colleagues holiday gifts. However you decide to be generous, make sure you are genuine and truly have the giving spirit. If you don’t, people will notice. Remember it’s not the size or price that counts…it’s the thought that counts!

Tip Seven: Don’t Drink Too Much

With festivities comes drinking and good times. While it’s OK to enjoy yourself, do so only in moderation. Treat the holidays like any other time of the year by showing good behaviour. Don’t go overboard with drinks because you still need to maintain your professionalism and composure. You don’t want people to see a different side of you if you can’t handle your libations.

Tip Eight: Don’t Invite Your Entire Network to Parties

You should be honoured if someone invites you to a holiday party. For most parties, the host will allow you to bring a guest or two. A holiday party is a chance for the host to invite his or her network. It’s not the time for you to invite yours. Don’t take advantage of the host’s generosity. Show respect to the host and don’t invite your entire network or more than two people. After clearing with your host it is fine to do so.

Tip Nine: Be Genuine

Personal networking has a bad reputation. The word “networking” conjures up images of someone wanting to “use” you, to take your time and connections without offering anything of redeeming value in return. If your motive to attend or host holiday networking functions or send greeting cards is self-serving, then you will harm your relationships rather than strengthen it.

The motive that inspires the greatest trust in your relationships is genuine caring –caring about people, caring about purposes, caring about the quality of what you do, caring about society as a whole.

Think about it: Are you going to build relationships or trust someone who couldn’t really care less about you? Interaction that is honest and reciprocal is what makes networking a level playing field. It is about giving rather than receiving, which is in keeping with the spirit of the season, right?

Tip Ten: Have Fun

The most important aspect of the holidays is to remember to have fun. While networking is a serious activity, relax and enjoy yourself during this time of the year. Since networking is generally more social during the holidays, you will have the chance to interact with people in fun settings. As long as you still act professionally, you can let loose a little bit and have fun!

Final Thought

The holidays offer an excellent opportunity to build and maintain relationships.

Networking is simple – but it’s not easy. If it were easy, everyone would do it, and do it well. But they don’t. That’s because it’s a skill that can be mastered with the right knowledge, practice, commitment and consistent application.

Happy Holidays! PS: Don’t Keep Karl A Secret!

Copyright 2010 by Karl Smith Book Karl to speak at your next conference

This article may be copied or republished with the following credit:
“By Karl Smith, Networking and High-Trust Business Relationship Building Expert” Cape Town, South Africa. +27 (0) 71 444 2210 karl@businessnetworkingsouthafrica.co.za www.businessnetworkingsouthafrica.co.za

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