[Written by Doug Brown, Director of Development at ASTI Environmental.]
So you’re going to a business holiday party…
I would like to share some helpful tips on how to attend a Business Holiday Party and what pitfalls to avoid. I am a bit of an expert as I have broken just about every rule I will cite:
- Notice the first word in Business Holiday Party is Business. Your goal is to get a business opportunity, not “win the party.”
- Leave the cell phone/Droid/iPad/Blackberry/iPad/iPhone/iMac/iDon’t Care in the car – no one cares how fast you can move your thumbs when your business contact is about to grant you an opportunity. Your text can wait – you are really not that important :) and if you were, you would have someone to handle communications for you.
- Bring your own name badge. Yes this sounds a little weird, but if the adhesive or clamp on the back of your name badge has ever ruined your clothes you know what I mean. Your name sloppily handwritten with a heavy black sharpie does not make a good first impression either.
- My mom always said to stay away from religion, cars and politics when trying to be a good conversationalist and my mother was always right. Quoting Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow will not win you many friends.
- Watch the drinks – no one does business with the life of the party; they are merely amused by them. If it’s cocktails only, drink ginger ale or club soda and let ’em wonder what’s really in your glass.
- Unless you are Will Ferrell don’t try to be funny – you are at a business meeting trying to make a professional connection that can help grow your business.
- Arrive early / leave early. The host (or your desired target) will be accessible early in the evening and you will have access to a decision maker before it gets crowded.
- Forget what your mother told you and talk to strangers. Engage the first person you make eye contact with in a conversation and see where it takes you. There is nothing worse than hovering around “Mr./Ms. Big” waiting to lay your witty line on them along with everyone else.
- As for eye contact, don’t let your eyes wander around the room looking for a “better” contact – have the courtesy to give your undivided attention. Excuse yourself politely if the conversation is strained or they are not a suitable target for business.
- Be a good listener – people are often more impressed and will open up when you pay attention to what they have to say (feign attention if they are boring the bejesus out of you).
- If an opportunity presents itself, wait until your conversation ends then find a quiet place to write down as many details from your conversation as you can on the back of the individual’s business card or a index card – it sounds crazy but it works. If you do not recap the conversation at that moment you will mess it up the next morning when you try to reconstruct the conversation- I guarantee it!
- While you are at it, try to write down the folks you chatted with even if you didn’t get their business card.
- Drop all contacts a hand-written note (not an email) the next day and include your business card (assume they lost it or “mistakenly” pitched it.)