5 tips for networking at a Christmas party

Santa Claus is almost due in town. Besides red-nosed reindeer, his imminent arrival is signalled by the digital bells of your email account, acknowledging yet another invitation to a company holiday party.

Throwing a Christmas party is almost inevitable for businesses closing a successful year. And it’s no wonder since a party is the best way to say thank you to your employees and business partners for a whole year of hard work. Talk about killing many birds with a stone, huh?

The only problem is that there’s not one stone, but a thousand.

Christmas parties provide excellent networking opportunities. You get the chance to meet your existing clients outside of the office, get to know them better, and possibly even attract new ones.

Besides your business’ own Christmas party, chances are that you have to attend about a dozen others. Many of your suppliers, distributors, consultants, and other business partners are likely following the custom of holiday parties and are eager to see you there. Especially if they came to your party.

Whether you like them or not, Christmas parties provide excellent networking opportunities. You get the chance to meet your existing clients outside of the office, get to know them better, and possibly even attract new ones.

With the right holiday networking tips, you’ll be able to find the balance between business and pleasure. You can attract new clients, deepen your relationship with business partners, and get your mind off your endless holiday to-do list for an hour. And who knows, you may even enjoy yourself.

Holiday networking tips

1. Choose your battles

Don’t feel obligated to attend every single holiday party you’re invited to. Select the ones that are the most valuable from a networking point of view and send your regrets to the others.

Obviously, the parties of your most important clients are a must. Show up and grab the opportunity to chat with your clients as a person rather than a business owner.

Similarly, if you have a client who has valuable connections (e.g. people you want as your clients, or people who could introduce you to other potential clients), their Christmas party can be a great way to make their acquaintances.

However, if you’re invited to a party with no real networking potential but you really want to go (because it’s at a hot new restaurant, or they’re handing out free Lindt chocolate bars), don’t hold yourself back. It’s the holiday season, after all; a time when people are supposed to enjoy themselves.

2. Adhere to the theme

Sometimes holiday parties are held with an assigned theme or aim to contribute to a certain cause. For example, an Ugly Christmas Sweater party requires everyone to wear ugly Christmas sweaters. You can expect elves trodding on your feet at a Santa’s Workshop party, or marvel at the sparkling (fake) diamonds and crystals of a Winter Wonderland Christmas party.

The point is, don’t spoil the theme. If you’re supposed to wear an ugly Christmas sweater, don’t show up in your finest monochrome outfit.

Themes are an excellent way to start a conversation with virtually anyone.

Themes are an excellent way to start a conversation with virtually anyone. For example, you can compliment the exquisite reindeer head poking out of another guest’s stomach, or help someone avoid a fake snow avalanche.

If the party you’re attending wants to raise nonperishable foods or toys for charity, don’t go low-key. Bring a generous offering and congratulate the host on a wonderful initiative. Hanging around the toy collection zone and commenting on the toys (like, “when I was a kid I could’ve killed for a flashing beeping robot spaceship that speaks three languages”) will help break the ice and introduce yourself to others.

3. Don’t overdo it

A Christmas party is not the perfect setting for hard-selling your products or services to potential new clients. While everybody expects a little business talk, nobody wants to spend the whole evening listening to various business achievements.

Should your business come up, mention what you do and if the other party seems interested, offer to follow up at another time. This way you can secure yourself a meeting with potential new clients where talking shop is expected.

If your aim is to get new clients, the best thing to do is having a pleasant chat with as many participants as possible. Should your business come up, mention what you do and if the other party seems interested, offer to follow up at another time. This way you can secure yourself a meeting with potential new clients where talking shop is expected.

If you have your sights set on a particular person you want to meet, ask your host to introduce you. Having a third party make the introduction helps break the ice and eases the conversation on.

4. Come prepared

If you want to get new clients, learn as much about them before the party as possible. Ask your host who else is coming, and check them out on LinkedIn or their company website.

If you know what a person’s interests are, you’ll be able to tailor those two sentences you do say about your business to your audience’s needs.

5. Easy on the booze

While this should be obvious, there still are people who think it’s OK to get drunk at a business Christmas party. If it’s a strictly internal gathering and you don’t mind being “that guy” from accounting the whole company talks about for months, by all means, go for it.

But if your aim is to network and possibly even get new clients, getting drunk is a big no-no. This doesn’t mean you have to go completely abstinent from alcohol, just make sure your brain is fully functional when you approach people.

Conclusion

Whatever your stance on Christmas parties, these holiday networking tips can help you make the most of the festive season for your business and still have a little fun along the way.

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