The holiday season is a great time to network because there are holiday parties galore. But just because most peeps are in a festive mood, that’s no reason to get sloppy with your networking.
Let me share some of my best practices for effective networking, even as you’re living it up with free drinks and finger foods.
Each event will appeal to a specific crowd. Knowing the focus of your party, who specifically do you want to meet? Yes, this can include specific people you want to reconnect with or meet for the first time. But it can be more flexible than that. For example: the last event I went to I wanted to focus on meeting people who could hire me for a project, and ended up connecting with a web series content creator. Mission accomplished.
Network first, eat and drink second
Don’t get sloppy drunk before you start introducing yourself to people. Make a point to mix and mingle with strangers before you start slurring your words or getting greasy food all over your hands. Hopefully you can handle your booze, or perhaps you’re not a drinker. But either way, you want to make a good impression by keeping yourself together, even when you party.
Seek out people you don’t already know
There is nothing worse than going to a networking event and staying in the corner all night with the two people you are already good friends with. What’s the point? The whole key to networking is talking to people you don’t already have a relationship with. Seek out new people before you get sucked into hanging out with friends all night.
Spend your first 30 minutes to an hour nursing one drink and stepping out of your comfort zone. How do you meet people at an event? It’s easy. Just walk up to someone new and say, “Hi, I don’t think we’ve met. I’m Emily…” and you’re off and running. (You should use your own name though, not call yourself Emily. Unless, you know, you are an Emily).
Keep a pen handy
If you’re meeting a lot of people, it helps to take notes on their business cards to jog your memory later. Especially if their biz card doesn’t have a picture of them. A few words on what you discussed or other helpful info will do. (Another good reason not to have your hands full with food or booze).
Use the white envelope strategy
I learned this strategy at a networking event about networking – if you can wrap your brain around that one!
A simple white business sized envelope will do, or you can make this fancy, whatever suits your taste.
Write down the date and the event on the envelope.
When you’re meeting people you want to keep in touch with, get their card and drop it into the envelope. If you meet someone who doesn’t have a card, or they ran out, write down their contact info (neatly!) on the outside of the envelope. Instant organization!
Have fun and catch up with friends
Once you’ve done some good networking, it’s also important to cut loose and enjoy yourself. Grab another drink, get some food, catch up with the folks you already know and get down on the dance floor. Just be sure you put your envelope somewhere safe.
Before you go to bed, implement!
When you get home that night, BEFORE you go to be, take out your envelope and send a follow up email to each person you met. Also check them out on social media and friend/follow them if possible. Do this immediately. The longer you wait, the more likely you will be to talk yourself out of the follow up and you’ll never make the connection.
Make a long term follow up plan
Stick the envelope on your office wall at home. Choose the appropriate frequency of follow up (monthly, quarterly, whatever makes sense). Then bop on over to your calendar and schedule in the dates you will follow up with people from this event. I like to use google calendar. It’s free and easy, just the way I like it When that date comes along on your calendar to reach out and connect, go back to the envelope on your wall, pull out the business cards, and send a quick email, facebook, tweet or snail mail to each person to keep that relationship going.
Emily Grace helps actors get in the driver’s seat of their career with marketing plans that get results. She is an award winning actress, a writer and producer. Want to hear more from Emily? Be sure to sign up for her weekly newsletter full of useful tools to navigate the entertainment industry at www.emilygrace.tv