The Christmas season is an excellent time to meet potential clients. Many organizations would like to put projects into motion when January comes around and more decision-makers than you may realize are on the lookout for a Freelance consultant to help their department achieve important goals. Do what you can to attend those that appear to have potential for good networking. You may receive an invitation to a party where you know only the host. Don’t shy away. Accept and devise a winning game plan to see you successfully through what might otherwise be an awkward clunker of an evening.
Call the host (do the Evite as well if that was sent) to personally RSVP and express thanks for the invitation. Tactfully inquire about the guest list (you can also check on Evite and ask for intros while at the party) and proper dress for the occasion, so that you will know what to expect. Knowledge is power and power brings self-confidence. Tell the host that you look forward to meeting the other guests and ask him/her to introduce you to anyone on your personal VIP list. Right away, you’ll make the host happy because you’ve identified yourself as a good guest. Tip: since your purpose for attending is looking for your next client, go alone. The last thing you need is a friend who could detract from your agenda or take over a conversation that is going well for you.
At the party, fulfill that expectation by taking on the role of facilitator. Do your best to be (appropriately) friendly and authentic. Have the courage to extend yourself and greet people, especially those who are alone. They will be grateful that you’ve rescued them. When in conversation, allow the other person to talk about themselves. After introducing yourself and offering up some pleasantries about the nice party that you’re both at, “How do you know (the host)?” is a great ice-breaker. A general question about holiday plans— at home or traveling?— is a nice follow-up.
Practice the art of mingling. When conversation seems to hit a dead-end with one person, excuse yourself to refill your plate or your drink (Hint: 3 drink limit, do not overdo) and find someone else to talk to. Do not intrude upon conversations that appear to be private. At the party, remind the host of whom you would like to meet. When meeting your VIPs, resist the temptation of promoting yourself. If you know something of the guest list in advance, search LinkedIn or Twitter to get a career update, so that you can “serendipitously” ask questions that will allow your wish-list guest to talk about him/herself and make yourself look wonderful in the process.
Use the 80/20 Rule and cede 80 % of the conversation to the other person and spend 20 % talking about your own life and business (unless the VIP really wants to know). If it seems appropriate, suggest post-party contact and do a card exchange. Ask for a good time to call/email—December or January?
Leave social media out of the party. Do not even think about posting a photo on Facebook or Instagram. Do not invite a VIP or anyone else you’ve just met to join your LinkedIn network.
Finally, knowing when to arrive and exit a party are important social skills. Especially when you do not know anyone on the guest list beyond the host, arrive at 6:30 PM for a 6:00 PM – 9:00 PM affair, so that you will have several people to talk to. Unless you are in a good conversation with follow-up potential, make your exit (thanking the host on the way out) when 25 % – 35% of the crowd has departed. You want to be present when the party is at its peak. Now go and check your email and look for invitations!
Thanks for reading,