Guest Column

The business holiday party checklist

November 23, 2018
| By Doug Brown |
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I would like to share some helpful tips on how to attend a business holiday party and what pitfalls to avoid. I am a bit of an expert, as I have broken just about every rule I will cite.

Set a goal: Notice the first word in business holiday party is business. Your goal is to earn a business opportunity not to "win the party."

Bring business cards: It happens way more than you might expect.

Arrive early/leave early: The host or keynote speaker will be accessible early in the evening — connect with them before it gets too crowded. Leave when there’s a lull or the volume of the conversation starts to lower.

No devices: Leave the cell phone/Bluetooth/iPad/Blackberry/iPhone/iMac/iDon't Care in the car — no one cares how fast you can move your thumbs when your business prospect is sizing you up. Your text can wait — you are really not that important, and if you were, you would have an administrative assistant that handles your routine communication.

Bring your own name badge: Yes, this sounds a little weird, but your name sloppily handwritten with a heavy black sharpie does not make a good first impression. Also, if the adhesive or clamp on the back of your name badge has ever ruined your clothes you know what I mean.

Talk to strangers: Forget what your mother told you and talk to strangers. Engage the first person you make eye contact with in a conversation and see where it takes you. There’s nothing worse than hovering around "Mr./Ms. Big" waiting to lay your witty line on them along with everyone else.

Look your prospect in the eye: Don't let your eyes wander around the room looking for a "better" prospect — have the courtesy to give your undivided attention to the person you are engaged with. Politely excuse yourself, “I’m going to circulate,” if the conversation is strained or if this individual is not a suitable prospect for business.

You are not funny: Unless you are Kevin Hart or Will Ferrell, don't try to be funny. You are at a business meeting trying to make a professional connection that can help grow your business.

Active listening: Be a good listener and give positive nonverbals (head nods, etc.). People are often more impressed and will open up when you pay attention to what they have to say (feign attention if they are boring the bejesus out of you).

Topics to avoid: My mom always said to stay away from religion, cars and politics when trying to be a good conversationalist and my mother was always right. Quoting Rush Limbaugh or Rachel Maddow will not win you many friends.

Watch the drinks: No one does business with the life of the party, and they are rarely amused by them. If it's cocktails only, drink ginger ale or club soda and let ’em wonder what's really in your glass.

Recap instantly: Because your device is in the car, find a quiet place to write down as many details from your conversation as you can on the back of the prospect’s business card or an index card. Sound crazy? It works. I guarantee that if you do not recap the conversation at that moment, you will mess it up the next morning when you try to remember what you discussed with whom.

Identify all attendees: Ask your host for a list of attendees so you know who to connect with afterward. The worst they can say is no and half the time they will provide it. One follow up question for an important prospect you missed could be “I missed you at ______’s gig, can you take a quick call to catch up?

Put it in writing: Drop everyone you spoke to a handwritten note (not an email) the next day and include your business card — assume they forgot who or what you are, and lost or pitched your business card “by mistake.”

Doug Brown is director of development for ASTI Environmental. He can be reached at dbrown@asti-env.com.

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