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Tips for holiday networking success

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Mid-November often means the beginning of the holiday networking season; it’s the time to rub elbows with those you hope to get to know in the coming months. Whether the party is just within your company or you’re representing your company at another organization, make sure you’re polished and ready to play the game. Holiday parties are perfect networking opportunities but can be disastrous if we forget the basic rules. Here are a few tips that will ensure your networking success.{{more}}

1. Choose your outfit wisely. A little holiday flair is fine, but remain conservative and look businesslike.

2. Be strategic. Company sponsored holiday parties are free but many non-profits charge to attend. If you are paying, choose the functions that can give you more networking mileage for your dollar. Make sure the people who attend are the people you want to connect with to build a relationship.

3. Maintain your professional decorum at all times. Even though you are at a holiday party, leave the weekend personality at home. ’Tis not the time to be jolly.

4. Always carry lots of business cards. Be prepared to do business at any time. This is especially important for self-employed individuals. Remember, give only one card unless the person asks for more.

5. Practice your 30-second commercial. You should be able to articulate what you do in 30 seconds or less. Keep it short.

6. Bring a GREAT attitude. Be up-beat, do not talk about your problems with your boss, your job or that you will not be getting that Christmas bonus back at the office.

7. Limit alcohol consumption. An open bar does not mean you need to try all the exotic drinks or load up on FREE beer. Even though it’s a holiday party, be wise when consuming alcohol.

8. Set networking goals. Plan to meet three to five people while at a reception. The aim is to build quality relationships. Collecting lots of business cards does not ensure quality, just volume. When possible, target a few key people if you know ahead of time who will be attending.

9. Avoid controversial topics. Avoid religion and politics. Talk about career goals, sports and business news, etc. Have some knowledge of current, local and world events.

10. Eat but don’t over-indulge . Yes, the jumbo shrimp are usually plentiful but don’t park yourself at the food table. It’s always wise not to go to receptions starved. Most of your time should be spent mingling, not eating.

11. Offer clean, dry handshakes. Hold your drinks in your left hand so the right hand is always free and warm.

12. Listen more than your talk. Figure out how you can help someone instead of always looking for people to help you.

13. Follow-Up. Don’t wait for the new year; call, e-mail or write a quick note within one week to begin a dialog with your new contacts.

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