It's that time of year again: party season. The inboxes are filing with invites to attend functions, cocktail parties and client functions.
So when you think of the word "party" it's all about having fun, catching up, drinking and looking fabulous, right? Wrong.
The party season provides plenty of career and business-advancing opportunities to connect with people. These tips will help you make the most of them.
1. Select the right events. Don't just RSVP to every party invite. Have a serious think about who will be there and whether you can find a strategic angle by attending.
Examples of what you could get out of the function include:
* Meeting someone in person you may be connected to online
* Meeting people from a particular industry you want to start working in
* Connecting with a particular business owner or manager
* Familiarising yourself with the business or organisation holding the event
* Being seen with others who will be attending
2. Find new events. If you haven't been invited to a particular event you know can add value to your career/business, then contact the organisers or business owner and ask if you can attend. It's rare they will say no to someone asking.
3. Make the most of the event. Promote the event you're attending. Milk it as much as possible. By doing this, you're not only promoting yourself, you're also promoting the host organisation. So take photos, check in on Facebook, use Instagram and even Twitter. And while you're at it, try and catch the eye of the roaming photographer.
4. Participate. If there is a guest speaker, make sure you send tweets with photos and tag the organisation to show them you are a valuable addition to the event, and worthy of a follow-up invite to a future event. Ask involved questions and contribute to discussions.
5. Be strategic about who you take. Taking a partner or friend can either hinder or help with your connecting. If you know it isn't their crowd and you'll merely end up babysitting them, then attend on your own and work the room. On the other hand, if they can add value to conversations and are genuinely interested in attending (and don't mind being alone if need be), then by all means, bring them.
6. Don't drink. Yes, this is important. End-of-year functions are synonymous with the everyday businessperson making a complete fool of themselves because of the free-flowing bubbles and beer. You don't want to end up being a source of gossip, or on someone else's Facebook page doing something you regret.
7. Bring a gift. People don't expect a gift if they're hosting a Christmas or end-of-year party. But when you think about the expense and effort involved, they certainly deserve one. Demonstrate how much you appreciate being invited by bringing a little something to say thank you. It could be a card, voucher, hamper or a bottle of wine. I guarantee you not many other guests – if any – will be doing the same.
8. Work the room. This isn't the time to hang out with all the people you know. Yes, you can mingle with familiar contacts, but don't miss a great opportunity to meet new people in a common and relaxed environment. A good rule is to aim to meet three new contacts at each function.
9. Mind the mistletoe danger. I am sure you can guess what I am hinting at here. End-of-year functions are not the time or place to start kissing colleagues, strangers or even running off with someone you've just met. Don't forget that people are watching everything you do, just as you might watch them, including who you arrive and leave with.
10. Have fun. Yes, you still need to have fun. No one likes to spend time with people who take things too seriously, especially at a party. One of the best skills you can perfect is to be fun, while having meaningful conversations. It'll ensure people remember you long after the party season's over.
11. Catch up for coffee. These are the four most strategic words you can use while connecting at a function. Once you have impressed somebody or vice versa, a simple catch-up for coffee is a great way of keeping the communication short during the function, and saving the important part of the connection for the new year.
12. Say "thank you". After you attend a function, even if you brought a gift for the host, remember to send a thank you card or email. This is a sign of respect and keeps you top of mind as someone who appreciated being invited.