Holiday season is here, hooray! OK, maybe not hooray for everyone. Not everyone celebrates Christmas. Those who do sometimes feel pressured to spend more money and time on gifts and activities than they’d like, all the while projecting a façade of holiday cheer, in order to avoid disappointing others. But the season is what it is and it’s not going to change. If you can talk yourself into the right frame of mind, it’s probably possible to get something more valuable out of Christmas than 10 extra pounds and a stack of bills to pay. Let’s talk about it.
Holidays mean parties and parties are about renewing and creating relationships. If you go to the right parties you will have a good time, if you let yourself. So why not go for it and make the holidays work for you?
Christmas party invitations will slip into your inbox and give you decisions to make. Chances are you will not have the time, energy, or money to accept all of your invitations. One way to plan your December calendar is to divide your party possibilities into business and social categories and edit from there.
It might be most enjoyable for you to attend a mix of business related and social occasions, to promote a healthy work-life balance for yourself. Social invitations can be ranked according to your relationship with the host. You’ll be happy to turn out for a party given by a dear friend or favorite cousin with a bottle of wine or some other host gift in hand, because you are a good friend and a good guest. If you are a member of a social organization, you may choose to attend that party as well.
Professional association parties require a more carefully crafted strategy, because networking with the goal of identifying someone with whom you can create a potentially profitable business relationship will be on your mind. Which parties are likely to offer good networking opportunities along with an atmosphere that makes it fun to catch up and schmooze with colleagues? There will be an admission charge and cash bar. Where might you get the best value-added? Ask yourself two questions and evaluate your choices:
- Who are my best business prospects?
To which industries do you sell your products and/or services? Are your customers B2B, B2C, or B2G, for-profit or not-for-profit, small, medium or Fortune 1000? What are the job titles of the decision-makers and key influencers?
2. Where might I meet those prospects?
If your customers are small businesses, then chambers of commerce or neighborhood business associations are good places to find business owners, who are the decision-maker for all important products and services.
If your customers are Fortune 1000 or even prosperous mid-size businesses, you’ll be better off joining a committee or the board of a not-for-profit organization, or exploring service clubs such as the Kiwanis or Rotary Club, which are hubs for professionals who want to volunteer their services. You will be much more likely to find decision-makers at the philanthropic organizations. Invest your time and talent and get to know potential prospects and referral sources as you demonstrate your competencies and leadership skills through the service work that you do.
If networking is your purpose for attending a party, you’ll have more success meeting people when you go alone. You’ll be forced to introduce yourself and talk with others and in so doing, you’ll meet people whom you may not have met if you brought along your spouse, good friend, or colleague.
Nearly all party invitations are now sent by Evite and that gives guests the huge advantage of seeing who has signed up to attend. Otherwise, if you have the right relationship, call the host to RSVP by phone and tactfully inquire about the guest list. Don’t be ashamed to perform an internet and social media search to help yourself prepare talking points and questions for guests you’d like to reconnect with or meet.
Finally, figure out the party dress code. A Sunday afternoon tree trimming party at the home of friends or family means relaxed business casual attire. Wear business attire to professional association parties, which are nearly always held on a week night. Gatherings at someone’s home or at a social organization on a Friday or Saturday evening can mean that guests will wear anything from black-tie to more relaxed, yet festive attire.
Now, go check your email!
Thanks for reading,
Image: Roman Sarcophagus (detail), 240-260 BC Courtesy of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art Kansas City, MO