Thoughts on Leadership: Networking at Holiday Parties

By Gino Blefari

This week my travels find me in Irvine, CA at our HSF Affiliates HQ for meetings and for our annual HSF Affiliates pancake breakfast and holiday party. We’re celebrating an incredible team I’m proud to be a part of, with members as hard-working as they are dedicated to achieving our organization’s Wildly Important Goals. It’s with deep gratitude that I find myself among such esteemed colleagues and as I always say, “I love what I do largely because of who I get to do it with.”

The HSF Affiliates holiday party is one of many I’ll be attending throughout December and as I meet friends old and new, re-connecting with acquaintances and creating relationships, I’m reminded that these gatherings are great opportunities to build and strengthen your network. If you think about it, there may actually be no better time than during the festive, fun holidays to do some serious networking.

Here are a few ways to do it:

Be friendly, maintain eye contact with guests and project a positive self-image. When you exhibit respect and confidence, everything else falls into place. Remember, four factors create a positive first impression: your smile, your dress, your handshake and your vocabulary.

Smile! This one may seem simple but too often people walk around a party with a grumpy look on their faces. Does anyone want to do business with someone who’s grumpy? (Also, it’s a party … why not smile?) The key to a great, authentic smile is to think pleasant thoughts.

Put yourself out there, even if it seems risky. Don’t be afraid to network with anyone and everyone! Intimidation is natural but push past the risk of rejection and make the connection. Have you ever taken a risk and succeeded? Didn’t it seem like less of a risk after the event was over than before you were willing to take it? The reward always far outweighs the risk.

Find common ground. The sooner you can find something in common with the person you’re talking to, the sooner all barriers will disappear and you can converse with sincerity and candor. Do you both own Golden Doodles? Enjoy the same TV shows? Have similar hobbies? Common-ground dialog will breed genuine conversation. And speaking of genuine conversation …

When talking with guests at a holiday party, listen more than you speak. As bestselling author Stephen Covey once said, “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”

So, what’s the message? This year during holiday parties, of course take time to celebrate your wins but also view the gatherings as opportunities to network and build your business. Forge connections, meet members of your community and find friends you never knew you had. Then, by the time the New Year rolls around, your future will look especially shiny and bright.

GINO BLEFARI is CEO of HSF Affiliates LLC. You can follow Gino on FacebookInstagram and Twitter.

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