As the Halloween decorations are being put away and the menu for Thanksgiving is being drafted, an even more all-encompassing season will soon be knocking on our door: the winter holidays! With them comes abundant opportunities for networking and making / renewing relationships in both your work and personal sphere. Because not everyone jumps for joy at these chances, here are some tips for coming out of the season unscathed and will success!
The old adage of just showing up applies. If networking makes you nervous or you clam up upon walking in a room of new people, simply doing that over and over again will make it (eventually!) become like second nature. And the odds are there will be at least a few other people there that do not have a room full of deep relationships, so finding these people will make you instantly more comfortable.
Did you watch the game last night?
Kicking off a conversation with a light topic and one that is on the minds of most people will allow conversation to flow and a rapport to build. Being mindful of regional sports as well as topics like current events and cultural shows such as musicals or plays in the area will help as you can offer up these topics as a starting point to a conversation with someone new.
I work at __________.
Having an elevator-type pitch of yourself in terms of where you work and what your job title and functions are will not only help connect you to other people but will simultaneously improve your speaking skills. This shouldn’t come across as self-aggrandizing but rather as a brief and specific snapshot of yourself and what your functions could offer other people. Do you work in retail? Explain upcoming sales and promotions. Working in performing arts? Rattle off a few acts that will be of interest to the general public. The more you explain your profession and strong points of your company, the tighter and more nuanced your elevator pitch will become. Over time, you may walk in the door looking forward to offering your elevator pitch instead of focusing on your nerves of networking!
Too often people get interrupted by someone constantly steering the conversation back to themselves. Don’t be a conversation hog. Instead, let conversation flow between yourself and other people naturally. That ebb and flow will translate to different topics and maybe to different people as attendees come and go. By being attentive and actively listening, this will allow you to pick up on the likes, dislikes, and nuggets of information people offer about themselves that will pay you back in dividends as not only the event progresses, but time in general.
Remember and engage.
Those likes and dislikes that people offered about themselves? By remembering, you have a list of reasons to contact someone in the future. Upcoming networking event you want to see who will be in attendance? Reach out to the people you became friendly with! The state baseball team won the qualifying game that person mentioned they love? Send a congratulatory email! The restaurant chain that that person mentioned they dislike opened a location near you? Send a snarky email to that person to keep the repour going so you can both laugh! This way, a relationship will continue to solidify and once you steer your contacts towards matters of work, you won’t seem like a sales call or stock email sender.