It’s December. This month we typically attend more parties and get-togethers than usual. Even if they are not “business-focused” events, you can still benefit from talking about your work. Here’s how to get the most out of networking at these events.

How to Get the Most Out of Networking: The Basics

  • Keep your alcohol intake to a minimum. You don’t want to be remembered as “that girl who got sloppy.”
  • Always carry business cards on you. You don’t need to, or even want to, whip out your business card the first time someone stretches out their hand toward you. If you get to talking with someone and they show some interest in talking with you again or learning more about your business, you should have a card handy. I personally always forget to take my cards out of my card holder in my everyday bag and put them in my special occasion bag. To solve this problem, I preemptively tucked a few into the inside pocket of the bag I carry on nights out, so I don’t have to kick myself if I go out and forget them.
  • Be bold about telling people what opportunities you’re looking for. Let’s just say, that I’m one of many people who are not currently working in the field in which they got their college degree. After I finished my bachelor’s degree I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Whenever I told people I just graduated, I dreaded the follow up questions about my plans.

I honestly told people, “I’m not sure what kind of job I’ll get, but I have a lot of writing experience and am looking for all types of work right now.” Once people learned I had writing experience, I got many comments. People said they needed help with their website, or they wanted help writing press releases. That led to a lot of work. You can do the same. Tell people honestly what experience you have and what you’re trying to do.

How to Get the Most Out of Networking: Intermediate Networking

  • Mingle. If you’re not the social type, it’s easy to stick with the person you came with or the one friend you know in the room. Try to mix and mingle. Find another person who looks uncomfortable and say something to break the ice.
  • Think of some conversation topics ahead of time. Being nervous and put on the spot to say something is the worst! Try to run through some daily news, interesting tidbit or recent experience you’re willing to talk about so you have something to say.
  • Ask questions. If you don’t want to talk about yourself, ask the others how they know the host or what business they’re in. People love talking about themselves and even though you’re not doing much, it makes you seem friendly.
  • Keep at least one hand free of drinks or snacks for shaking hands.
  • Repeat a person’s name to yourself a few times so you remember it.

How to Get the Most Out of Networking: Advanced Networking

  • Make an effective introduction. Make eye contact, have a firm handshake. Have a couple of sentences prepared for when it’s your turn to say what you do. Go into greater detail if the conversation permits it.
  • Try to introduce someone else to another person in the room. I personally think it’s great fun to link people up who have similar interests. If I meet someone who is a photographer and I meet someone who is starting a business, I might suggest they meet to get some custom pics for the new website.
  • Take notes. If you get someone else’s card, jot down on the back of it where you met and who introduced you. It makes it so much easier when you send your follow-up emails. At conventions and conferences, I’ve often picked up cards of people who weren’t actually there or who I didn’t actually meet. Later on, I often get mixed up about who’s who.
  • Use social media wisely. As tempting as it may be to fire off a Facebook friend request, be judicious about how personal to get. Understand which platform is best conducive to your business relationship and connect with them there, perhaps LinkedIn or Twitter.
  • Follow up. A few days after the event, send emails to anyone you met that you want to keep in contact with. Personalize each email. Remind the person where you met and who introduced you. They might forget if they didn’t take notes like we recommended above! Don’t just send a generic LinkedIn invite.