You know the holidays are here when the invitation comes for the "ugly sweater" party that you dread every year. But with all the parties and events during the holidays, you should take advantage of the festive mood to do some of your best networking. These holiday networking tips will help you make the most of the parties and get-togethers:

1. Plan ahead

Decide on a goal for the evening. Two new contacts? Four introductions? With a plan in mind, you'll be motivated to move around and spend time with more people than your usual pals. Bring some business cards, but hand them out only when appropriate or when asked. It is, after all, a party.

2. Go with the theme

If you get an invitation to an "ugly sweater" party, dig out your worst sweater or head to the store. If it's a cocktail party, dress the part. Some parties include a toy or book drive; don't neglect your chance to give to the less fortunate. It's important to show up enthusiastic and ready to participate. Make sure to wear a smile, too--no Scrooges allowed!

3. Know your limits

The eggnog may be the best you ever had, but you need a clear head if you're going to meet new people and make a good impression. A drink or two is fine, but you'll have a hard time regaining credibility if you "win" the Jell-O shot contest and end up on the floor.

4. Don't talk about your business

At least, not right away. People want to relax and enjoy the party. Lead off with an easy--and non-controversial--topic or question: "How do you know Bob and Mary?" "Wow, that is really an ugly sweater!" "Isn't the village light display lovely this year?" Once you've started a conversation, it can eventually lead to the topic of what you each do for a living.

5. Position yourself

Standing near the food is a sure-fire way to meet others. Everyone heads to the buffet at some point. "Aren't these bacon-wrapped scallops delicious?" "I wonder where she got this potato salad?" Even the shyest person is comfortable talking about food. Another way to meet someone is to approach a person standing alone. Not only are you helping someone who may not know anyone else, you may discover a fascinating contact.

6.Remember your etiquette

Bring a bottle of wine or small gift to the hosts. Never leave the party without finding them and thanking them. Send a handwritten note the next day. A polite guest always gets invited back...for more networking opportunities!

Of course, you're there to have fun. And you can also do some good networking with people that you might not have otherwise met. Happy holidays!

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Published on: Dec 15, 2014
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