Work the room at your next Christmas party!
This may be a little late in the month for this post, but it just occurred to me. If you’re going to any parties or other social gatherings this holiday season, you should be prepared to make good contacts and connections for your . I’m not saying you should go to parties for the sole purpose of networking. That wouldn’t be fun or productive. I’m saying that, as you enjoy your evening, you can make the most of introductions to interesting people. Here’s 3 rules to help you out:
Rule 1: Don’t get sloshed.
You’re probably a grown-up by now. Act like one. Who on earth would pass along the name of that guy who threw up all over the sofa, no matter how good a photographer he is? Stay in control: even if you don’t remember the evening, someone else probably does. It’s okay to loosen up, especially if you’re nervous, but don’t be afraid to switch to something vague and non-alcoholic, like a plain coke.
Rule 2: If you meet a potential, don’t pitch them.
Folks don’t go to parties saying “Gosh, I hope I meet a new supplier for my business at my wife’s friend’s christmas party!” which is why it’s strange that so many small business owners (including photographers (including myself, until I learned)) start pitching their business services to you right there by the shrimp cocktail. you have to remember that it’s still a party. So, be social! Tell them what you do for a living, and if there’s potential, remember that and keep talking. Find something in common! Far better to make a friendly connection with the person, get their card at the end of the conversation, and call them up on Monday. You go from being “that photographer” to “Sam! The guy who told me about that great article on basket weaving (or whatever.)” That kind of familiarity is worth its weight in gold (as long as you remember that clients are not your friends. I’ll write an article on this concept later.)
Rule 3: Be an asset.
The idea is that you want people to come away glad that they met you. Don’t be a wallflower. Always stay positive: Don’t make negative jokes about the party. No weather, religion or politics of any kind. Be funny, but don’t “tell jokes”. Be polite, and listen more than you speak. Introduce people you’ve met to other people you’ve met. Let people talk about things that interest them. This way, they feel liked, and you learn more about them. If someone feels like you are useful, they will apply you and pass you along to others. You never know who knows someone you want to do business with. Leaving people with a positive opinion of you is the ultimate DIY advertising.
So, there you go: Don’t get drunk, don’t be a pushy salesman, and be a positive interaction. Networking at parties is a long-term investment. You want to meet people and keep in touch with them, and let the relationship grow. You must be patient with these new social connections, but they will pay off in the long run.