Christmas party season is here, bringing Freelancers and business owners opportunities to become their own Santa Claus and put some new clients under the tree. Christmas is the time to pick up the thread with clients past, nurture relationships with clients of the present and meet clients you’d like to add to your roster in the near future. To make that happen, you know that you’ll need a game plan.
First, go to your parties alone. Under no circumstances do you need to drag someone along with you, unless that person is required to get you into a party where you can expect to meet prospective clients, or that person promises to introduce you to a good prospect while there. Even that arrangement can be risky— a few years ago I was invited to what should have been a networking bonanza for me, except that my friend wound up getting very drunk and even worse, he reneged on bringing me into a post-party meeting with someone who could have been very helpful to me.
Second, confirm the dress code. A weekend party held after 6:00 PM will imply fancier dress and maybe even black-tie optional. If you are the +1 (guest), ask your contact to send you the invitation. If s/he does not do so, then call the party organizer and inquire. You do not want to show up improperly dressed, even if your contact claims not to care about such things.
Men should wear a jacket, even if a suit is not required. Women should avoid too-short or too-tight clothing and revealing necklines. Jeans or leather pants are out of the question for either sex, unless your host is in the arts or tech.
Third, ask who is on the guest list, if you can do so casually and diplomatically. Present your request as a way to find out if you’ll know others in the room.
Fourth, polish up your short-form elevator pitch and think about how you might approach guests that you’d like to meet or reconnect with. You may want to Google a name and find out what that person has been doing, so you’ll know what to “spontaneously” bring up.
However, be mindful that pushing business topics will be a turn-off, unless the other person raises an issue. Focus instead on scheduling post-party follow-up with selected people who would like to know more about your products and services.
While at the party, greet and thank your hosts straight away, before you visit the bar or buffet. After that relax, mix and mingle. Brainstorm some friendly ice-breakers that will open the door to conversation (“How do you know [the hosts]?”) Eating and drinking are party highlights, but take it easy with the drinking. I recommend that you have not more than one drink and then switch to a non-alcoholic beverage. You must be sober to successfully work your networking agenda.
Moreover, you’ll also need to master the drink and hors d’oeuvres plate juggle. Hold your drink in your left hand, so that you can shake hands easily and not give a cold, damp greeting. Likewise, eat your hors d’oeuvres with the left hand, so you don’t offer a sticky handshake.
Finally, pay attention to the ebb and flow of guests. Unless you’re in a serious conversation when their number begins to fade, find your hosts, thank them for the invitation and take your leave. There is an optimum time to arrive at and leave a party. Arriving 15- 20 minutes after the start time is usually good. The next day, send a quick email to thank the host once more. After all, a good party is a wonderful thing and you want to get invited back next year!
Thanks for reading,