Christmas Season Networking for Introverts

Hello! Last week, we talked about how to network during the Christmas season and the meet & greet suggestions focused on attending parties and finding networking opportunities there.  This week, I propose that we revisit the Christmas season topic from a different perspective and explore how to network when the party scene is either not convenient or undesirable. This week, I’ll network with the introverts.

You may have noticed that I’m an extrovert by nature.  I love a good party.  I’m writing the first draft of this post on Friday December 1 and at a few minutes past 6:00 this evening, I will walk into a party and inaugurate my holiday season.

I’ll attend another party on Saturday afternoon at the branch library where I’m a board member and to round out the weekend, I’ll join the festivities at my neighborhood tree trimming party on Sunday afternoon at 4:00.  I’ll attend another three or four parties through December,  but I don’t expect any of them to be a networking bonanza.  All are social and that’s OK with me.

But be advised that in between holding glasses of wine I’ll do some targeted networking to support the roll-out of my newest content marketing service and I will not be in extrovert mode when I do.  The style of networking that I’ll employ as I prepare to beta test and launch the service I’ve been refining since September requires me to adopt the introvert mode.

Networking at parties is a subtle art.  It’s a turn-off when at social events some hyper-ambitious extrovert wrestles as many people as possible into participating in unsolicited business discussions, in a misguided attempt to find clients.  Introverts intuitively know that such behavior is a major faux pas.

So I’ll wear my introvert’s hat and email or call a short list of colleagues and good friends to propose that we get together soon. “It’s Christmas. Let me treat you!” I’ll reach out early this month, but won’t mind if we meet in January.  The two of us can catch up, compare notes and talk a little business.  I’ll broach the subject of my new service and describe how it can benefit the client’s business. “I’m looking to get this thing going quickly and I need referrals.  Is there someone at your company who might be interested? Who do you know at other B2B companies?”

We’ll figure out a strategy as we have a nice, uninterrupted talk that is free from blaring music, loud voices and friends plopping down in adjacent chairs, looking to join our conversation.  Extroverts get all of the attention when it comes to the subject of networking, yet introverts may have the inside track when it comes to relationship building and reaping benefits from their networking efforts.

Introverts know that a room full of chattering people balancing plates and drinks is a less than ideal environment for getting to know anyone beyond the surface gloss.  They feel most comfortable in small groups, where they can relax and get beyond superficial attempts at communication and that is why they can be so successful.

When an introvert does attend a party, s/he is likely to approach the girl or guy who’s sitting alone, to make some friendly small talk that might develop into a real conversation.  They often know how to make others feel included and welcome, in the most genuine sense.  That is the essence of networking and relationship building and it can be very profitable.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Image: Five O’ Clock Tea, Mary Cassatt (1880)                                                                   Courtesy of The Museum of Fine Arts  Boston, MA

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The Unwritten Rules of the Business Christmas Party

It’s countdown to Christmas and you may have already been to two or three parties by the time this post is published.  I will have been to three and one was at a business association.  I had a nice time.  I met a few people,  found out a few things about what is on the horizon for the association and got to know the president a little better.

In other words,  the Christmas party went as planned.  When attending a business Christmas party,  plan is the operative word.  Whether the party is hosted by your company,  a client,  or a business or professional association,  relax and enjoy the event,  but remember that you are at work.  Focus less on revelry and more on building or renewing relationships.

Always remember that you are being watched and evaluated,  because Christmas parties have a long-standing reputation of providing a stage for outrageous behavior.  Assume that those in attendance are waiting for someone to obviously over-indulge on alcohol,  or maybe slip out of the door with someone other than her husband.  Walk in the door making a good impression by following the requested dress code.  When none is specified,  wear whatever business attire means in that organization.

Create an agenda for the business Christmas parties you attend and polish your elevator pitch.  Besides chatting with your contact at the organization  (or your boss,  if you are an employee),  make a list of two or three other presumptive party guests that you would like to speak with,  whether or not you’ve met them,  and questions you’d like to ask.  However,  do not try to consummate a deal at the party.  Aim to set up a time to follow-up at a later date.

Because alcohol is inevitably involved,  it’s best to implement your action plan while everyone is relatively sober.  Arrive early.  Get your introductions made and have important conversations as early as possible.  Have maximum one alcoholic beverage and then drink mineral water with a slice of lime or lemon,  so that it looks as if you are having a cocktail,  to prevent yourself from drinking too much.  Leave sort of early.

Along with your must-meet list,  extend yourself and meet others.  When you see someone standing alone,  walk up and introduce yourself.  Start a conversation by asking if they come to this party regularly.  Meeting and greeting are the essence of every party.

When Christmas party invitations arrive,  recognize them for their potential networking value.  Think of a business Christmas party like a conference that doesn’t have presentations,  where you can meet or maybe reconnect with colleagues,  meet a new strategic partner or clients.  Yet do not make the mistake of talking too much business at the party.  Career coach Kathleen Brady,  owner of Brady and Associates Career Planners,  advises that  at the party  “You’re trying to create on-ramps to build new relationships.”  Now go have a good time!

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Four Rs for the Holidays

Freelance consultants usually have to grapple with downtime that is imposed upon us during the Christmas holiday season.  After the first week in December,  it can be impossible to drag a project to the starting gate.  Clients will either shift into party mode or year-end mode and concentrate on wrapping up their own projects before December 25.  Unless the client is facing a January deadline ( thank goodness I’ve got one of those this year,  even if the project is miniscule),  they will put the brakes on things until after the first week in January and there isn’t a blessed thing we can do about it.

But time is our most precious resource,  unrecoverable when wasted.  So the question is,  how do Freelancers make hay during the Holidays?  In fact,  there is no reason that the Holiday season should be less than productive for your consultancy.  I offer here a few suggestions of activities that will pave the way to a stronger and more satisfying New Year:

Reflect

Use the Holiday season downtime to reflect on the events of the year,  professional and personal.  How do you feel about how things turned out? Did you recognize good opportunities?  Did you have the moxie to create still more opportunities? Were you able to overcome obstacles,  or dodge adversity?  Did you achieve you financial goals? Did you pick up any good clients?  Did you get repeat business? Did you enter into any good relationships?

Take an inventory of your year.  Make a list of what you consider to have been your major accomplishments of 2012.  What fell into place for you,  what ambitious plans did you initiate and carry out? How did you reward yourself for your achievements? How did those achievements impact how you feel about yourself and your abilities? Look for patterns of behavior that put you on the path to either success or frustration.  Find the lessons and make note of what you must and must not do again in the future.

Reposition

Once you’ve taken stock and accounted for successes and missteps,  you will be ready to incorporate the wisdom into repositioning yourself,  or otherwise refining and polishing your image.  While you’re at it,  take an objective look at your website,  your LinkedIn page and other social media and  your printed marketing collaterals.  Recite your standard elevator pitch out loud and listen to how it sounds.  If someone walked up to you and gave you that spiel,  what would be your reaction?

Do your marketing materials and elevator pitch address the concerns of your clients and prospects as we approach 2013 and the Fiscal Cliff? Are you relevant? Maybe it’s time to tweak and present you and your skills in a way that will remind clients that your value proposition remains valuable.

Reconnect

The Holidays can be the perfect time to arrange to cross paths with prospects and former clients with whom you would like to forge or renew relationships and get them thinking about ways to do business with you.   If you read last week’s post,  you may have already sent greeting cards to former clients.  There may still be time to make the rounds of selected late season parties,  where you might get an introduction to a prospect you’ve been trying to meet since first quarter.  Check the websites of the more selective networking organizations and see where you might roll the dice.  Even if you don’t meet The One,  you might meet Another One,  who might be less elusive and ultimately more valuable to your bottom line.

Relax

By all means,  unwind and enjoy yourself.  Spend quality time with family and friends,  but earmark some time to be alone as well.  Dolce far niente,  as the Italians say—it’s nice to do nothing,  as least once in a while and we owe that to ourselves.  Catch up on sleep,  schedule a massage or facial if you’ve got the budget.  Downtime is important as a way to reduce stress and recharge our batteries,  which has a positive effect on our resilience and creativity.  When January rolls around,  you will be ready to take it on in style.

Thanks for reading,

Kim

Holiday Greetings!

Freelancers know that our business is only as good as our relationships and our relationships are our responsibility to cultivate and nurture.  One of the ways we do this is by sending December holiday cards to clients.  Show appreciation for the business you’ve been awarded and make this small,  yet important,  gesture that is a good relationship building block. 

Sending physical holiday cards,  as opposed to email greetings or e-cards,  demonstrates that you are a gracious and thoughtful professional,  willing to take the time to properly acknowledge and thank your clients at this special time of year.   When you send to your clients a genuine holiday card,   it shows that you understand and respect business etiquette.  Sending  holiday greeting cards is good for business relationships and for business.

 Holiday cards are an inexpensive and effective marketing tool.  They don’t take much time to write.  Your clients will be flattered to receive one from you.  Many business owners and Freelance consultants do not send December greetings to their clients any more  (or if ever),  so when you make the effort to send the card,  you communicate an important statement about who you are and your approach to doing business.  Sending holiday cards helps to distinguish you from competitors,  guards against your being viewed as just another vendor,  enhances your brand and shows clients that you value them.

When shopping for your card,  take special care to select one that will represent you well and will leave the desired impression with the client.  Because it is possible that you’ll have on your list clients who are neither Christian nor particularly religious,  avoid cards that depict a nativity scene or other Christian imagery,  or cards that contain a religious message. 

Scenes of winter or Poinsettias (for example),  with  “Seasons greetings”  or  “Happy holidays” printed within is the business-appropriate choice.  Spend the money to buy a good quality (but not lavish) card.  A small and tasteful card will be perfect.  Expect to pay about $20.00 for a box of 8 cards.

Next,  consider who should receive a card.  Along with current clients,  you’ll also include any clients you’ve worked with during the year.   I send cards to all clients I’ve worked with over the past five years,  as a way to keep my name in front them and remind them that they have not dropped off of my  radar screen.  Later in the new year,  when they’re thinking of whom to call for a project,  I want my name at top-of-mind,  if possible.  BTW,  it’s good to verify that clients from the past are still in the same posts,  so a visit to the organization website or call to the main switchboard will save you from wasting a card.

If you are a very organized Freelancer and had the foresight to order holiday cards printed with your name and business name back in November  (unlike your Diarist),  personally sign your name to the card anyway and write a brief handwritten message.  Along those lines,  do not use pre-printed address labels.  Keep the personal touch going by handwriting the client’s name and address on the envelope.  Verify job titles and always use honorific titles  (Mr. or Ms.).

Lastly,  get your cards stamped (no religious stamps,  use holiday stamps if available)  and to the post office no later than December 15.

‘Tis the season,

Kim