Networking with clients and colleagues at informal events is a serious business - especially during the festive season.

So don’t ditch that invite. Commit to do more than ‘show your face’. The one thing you’ll have in common with all the other individuals at those festive lunches, dinners and drinks receptions is that everyone’s thoughts will have magically shifted from the present towards the future: the new possibilities and positive experiences that 2017 could bring. With business contacts and clients warm to new ideas and chances to start afresh, it’s a perfect opportunity for you to step in and grant the business wishes they didn’t even know they had.

Here are five last minute tips to help you tackle festive networking with confidence, purpose and style.

Prioritise

You don’t have to turn into a party animal (unless you want to) but your attendance is an absolute must at gatherings where clients (past, present and potential) and professional contacts from the local business community - banks, law and accountancy firms, estate agents, independent shops, etc - are likely to turn up.

Also, make sure you don’t neglect those closer to home. Office events are helpful for building effective relations with work colleagues - you’ll need them on your side next year.

Be mindful

Oh yes, mindfulness is also applicable to networking. Being in the moment will not only enhance your enjoyment but make you more attentive to the needs of the people you encounter - definitely a better experience for them, and hopefully a profitable one for you. Try ‘active listening’ techniques such as making eye contact, asking questions and showing genuine interest in the story the other person is sharing with you. You’ll find interactions become a lot more productive and memorable.

Generosity

It’s about how you introduce yourself to others. Keep it concise and personable, with a teasing nugget of information to generate interest. Then, when you listen and give feedback, look for opportunities to offer support. It can be as small as a last minute present buying tip or a promise of an introduction. By sharing your knowledge and network, you’re demonstrating an open-handed approach which will, in most cases, inspire generosity from others in return.

Enjoy it

Socialising and networking require you to be respectful of your personal values and of the people you meet. Win their trust by being courteous and open. Make an effort to spread some cheer and open the door to stress-free and fun business conversations.

Follow-up

The last but most important tip: no matter how warm the connection was at the time of the event, if you don’t pursue it with even the shortest of emails, it will become icy cold in no time. It shouldn’t be time consuming. If you’ve taken care to network in a select and exclusive way, there’ll be fewer people to touch base with but better to make two high quality business links than five random ones. However, those new alliances won’t make themselves, so pick up the phone or send an email to say how nice it was to meet them and your wish stay in touch.

Watch this space for a workshop on networking in the New Year.

A very happy festive season to you all.

Daphne Thissen