5 Ways to Make Boring Christmas Parties into Networking Gold

Don't talk about work and plant yourself by the food.

VGstockstudio/Shutterstock

VGstockstudio/Shutterstock

Lots of us will be attending holiday parties and networking events this season. You may have an office Christmas party, a non-profit related soiree or a holiday get together for the members of one of your regular networking groups. Although you may attend with the goal of having a cocktail and seeing friends, there are lots of networking opportunities to be found at these type of events as well.

Here are some tips to help you close out the year strong:

1. Say Yes. Many people dread attending a work-related party or even other holiday events. Half the battle is making a commitment to get there. It may sound cliché but just tell yourself that you’re going to say yes to three events that you are tempted to decline. If you’re an employee at a place where there is a formal holiday office party, be sure to actually attend. It can definitely affect people’s perception of you negatively if you are absent. Just like other networking events you attend during the year, make a plan to target certain people. A work party may be one of your only opportunities to interact with the CEO or other higher ups. If a list of attendees is not available prior to the event, just tell yourself you’re going to have conversations with at least three new people. After that, if you just want to socialize with friends or co-workers, go for it.

2. Don’t talk about work. Even at a work-related holiday function, people are more relaxed. They don’t want to talk about the latest project deadline or meeting. Take the opportunity to get to know people on a more personal level. Have an idea ahead of time of some talking points that you can easily have a conversation about. This time of year I love to ask people about what they are doing for the holidays. My favorite icebreaker is to ask if they have any family holiday traditions this time of year. Most do and it really opens people up to talk about something that makes them happy. Even if you encounter someone with no plans or traditions, be a resource and tell them about something fun in Philly they can attend over the holidays or even a great holiday volunteer opportunity. Bonus points if you invite them to do something with you!

3. Follow up in a way that shines. If you’re invited to a holiday get-together, send a handwritten thank-you note after the event. One idea to stand out even more is to include a small donation with you note for a charitable cause you know is important to the host. It really shows that you’ve paid attention and made a gesture that was personal. This is much better than arriving with a generic box of chocolates or bottle of wine. Another idea is to bring a personalized gift for the host or something that you know would make things easier for them. For example, if you’re attending a night event at someone’s home, bring some muffins or bagels for them to enjoy the following morning when they are tired after a long night. Be thoughtful!

4. Use the Food. Are you an introvert? Plant yourself around the food table. Everyone will make their way there during the event. It’s so easy to strike up a conversation around the food. Ask someone if they’ve tried a certain appetizer or dessert. Open a dialogue in a way that is natural and does not involve you making an approach in the room if that is something that makes you uneasy.

5. Be a friend. If you are an extrovert, look for those in the room who are solo or clearly look uncomfortable. You may notice them intently looking into their drink and not making eye contact with anyone in the room. Make a point of making them feel included and welcome. Introduce them to a few other people in the room. It is a nice thing to do and also helps you to be more memorable. Making connections that could be helpful to them will really make an impact as well as showing that you have value as a connector and that you are willing to help people with no expectation of a favor in return. Tis the season!

Jennifer Lynn Robinson, is the CEO of Purposeful Networking. She conducts keynotes, workshops and seminars assisting companies, non-profits, groups and conferences to help ensure your networking is working for you. You can connect with her at on Twitter, at purposefulnetworking.com or at [email protected]

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