Christmas season is upon us and your party invitations are in the mail. My favorite part of Christmas is the parties and I usually have a good time. Christmas parties are an excellent way to catch up with dear friends and meet new people as well and for those reasons they set the stage for networking. Catch some Christmas spirit and be sure to wrangle two or three invitations (I’ll bet that will be easy for you). As you add parties to your calendar, give some thought to the following:
Ask your host who’s likely to be in attendance to find out who the VIPs will be and decide whom you’d like to meet. Do an internet search and peruse the LinkedIn page, using what you learn to devise a savvy ice breaker plus a couple of questions that will allow your VIP to do what s/he enjoys most—talk about him/herself. Ask the host to make introductions. The party is social and not business, so frame your approach as relationship building, although it’s probably not taboo to talk a wee bit of business. Go with the flow. If it’s not awkward, ask to get together after the new year to continue your business discussion. In the second week of January, make contact.
Respect the occasion
Be mindful that a Christmas party is a social event. Even if the gathering is sponsored by a professional or business association, dial back the all-business mode and get to know folks and let them get to know you, too. Refrain from treating a Christmas party as just another business meet ‘n’ greet. Overt selling is to be avoided.
What not to wear
I belong to a club that hosts a black-tie optional Christmas party every year. About half the men wear a tux. A white dinner jacket with black tuxedo trousers is likewise very chic and appropriate attire. A dark suit with tie is acceptable. The ladies wear after-six formal dresses, usually long. A lady can also wear a tux (work it like Marlene Dietrich). Ladies should avoid showing too much cleavage or too much leg, or wearing a very tight dress, no matter how physically gifted, when business networking is part of the agenda.
Moderate alcohol intake
Last year, I was invited by a friend to attend a Christmas party that was hosted by a prominent marketing company whose client list includes politicians who hold office at the state and federal level. My friend has worked with the company off and on and he’d like to do more. He complained that lucrative assignments had been withheld from him. However, as I watched him guzzle about six drinks in 90 minutes, I wondered why they gave him any work at all. His foolish behaviour also soured the introductions he made for me (and I’m suffering for it, because I don’t know anyone else to bring me back this year, without the lush). In other words, make the most of your networking and pace your drinking. Two or three drinks are all you need. The idea is to relax and not get tanked, or even visibly tipsy. An unexpected VIP may walk through the door and you don’t want to look and sound ridiculous. Moreover, you don’t want to upset your host.
So far, I’ve attended three Christmas parties. I had a lovely time at each affair and I was fortunate enough to meet and enjoy the company of one person with whom I plan to follow up. Two more parties are on my calendar and I intend to make the most of them.
Thanks for reading,