With an abundance of parties and events, the holiday season can seem like a great time for networking. It’s not always easy, though, to know how to network without seeming to be too focused on the work part of networking. After all, you don’t want to be the Grinch!
Here are 8 tips to help you figure out how to network in the holiday season.
How to Network During the Holidays
1. Schedule “Thank You” Lunches and Coffees with Key Partners
This is a best practice that should be practiced year-round, but it’s especially important at this time of year. When was the last time you thanked a key partner for their investment in your relationship?
Identify a list of your top network partners – the people who give you referrals, invite you to events, and provide you with valuable feedback. Make it a goal to schedule one-on-one time with each of them in the next few months.
In these meetings, share your gratitude and discuss how you can help each other in the coming year. Don’t be surprised if you come out of those meetings with a few referrals!
2. Schedule a Party for Friends and Partners
You won’t have time to meet everyone in your network one-on-one in the next few months, but what if you could bring them to you?
Organize a simple holiday party to connect with your network and connect them with each other. This doesn’t need to be fancy; an open house or evening reservation for snacks and drinks at a local spot would work.
3. Identify Extra Events You Will Attend
While the holiday season can be a distraction, it’s important to maintain momentum. Take advantage of the extra events you can find to attend!
Set a goal for yourself of how many of these events you can attend. Make it a bit of a stretch, but don’t push yourself too far. A number like one or two extra events per month might be good.
Think of events you will enjoy where you can also meet your prospects. Some examples might include holiday concerts, vendor events, and community events such as tree lightings or New Year’s celebrations.
4. Give Back to Your Community
This is a great time of year to give back. Instead of just making a donation and moving on, have you thought about using your charitable giving as a way to grow your network?
One great way to do this is to volunteer. You’ll meet some new people and work together to contribute to your community. Consider serving the poor at a soup kitchen, working on a cleanup project at a nearby community center, or participating in a Habitat for Humanity project.
Look at the places you’ve made donations throughout the year. Are they having any holiday parties or events? This can be a great way to connect to the cause, learn about what they’ve been doing, and connect with others who are interested in the same cause.
5. Network and Market Yourself Appropriately
While most people will expect some business networking at a community or company holiday event, no one wants that to be the primary purpose.
Prepare an engaging introduction of what you do, and avoid getting caught up in detailed conversations about work. If anyone seems interested in learning more, set up a separate time to talk so you can both get back to the event.
6. Send Handwritten Holiday Cards
For key members of your network, send handwritten holiday cards thanking them for their support and looking ahead to the coming year. They will appreciate the extra time you took, and you can add personal notes and invitations to meet and catch up.
7. Schedule Events and Meetings for January
With all the craziness of the holiday season, January will be here before you know it! Get your year off to a great start by scheduling networking events and meetings in the first few weeks of the New Year.
Wouldn’t it be great to get back after New Year’s with a calendar full of valuable meetings and events? You can ensure that by laying the groundwork now.
8. Look Back & Plan Ahead
This is a great time to look back at the past year. What’s worked and what hasn’t? What lead sources have you developed? What referral partners have you found? Who have you lost touch with? What events paid off? Which were a waste of time?
Take some time to analyze your business networking in 2015, and use that information to develop a plan for 2016. Which relationships will you deepen? What events will you attend? What new types of lead sources will you develop?
This is a busy time of year for all of us, but keeping up with business networking will pay off. I hope these networking tips are helpful as you close out 2015 and look ahead to the coming year!
Now you have a plan for how to network during the holidays, but don’t forget one very important thing. If you can’t manage your calendar, you won’t be able to stay on top of everything. Check out our resource on time management to learn how to manage your calendar like a pro!