We’re officially in the midst of the holiday season, and the influx of parties, gatherings, and get-togethers are a great opportunity to meet new people and expand your social circle. Whether you’re attending a work party at your significant other’s office, or going to your annual family gathering, there is always the potential to open a new friendship and even a new business opportunity. Every person you meet at an event should be considered a potential client.

In order to maximize your networking potential, and leave a great impression, we recommend that you keep these tips in mind.

Focus on the conversation, not your pitch.

When you’re meeting new people, and “talking shop,” it can be easy to jump into your elevator pitch. While your pitch might be the easiest and most clear way to talk about your business, it can sound a bit stiff and rehearsed. Instead of memorizing an elevator pitch, think of a few points that you’d like to get across, and try to work them into the conversation naturally.

More importantly – remember to listen to the other person. A surefire way to ruin a potential business connection is by dominating a conversation so much that the other person can’t get a word in. Instead, start the conversation with a few specific questions, and let their answers lead the way into a back and forth conversation.

Specific Question Examples:

  • What projects are you doing at work right now?
  • What were some of the highlight of 2017 for you?
  • Any big plans for the new year?

Effective networking includes a give and take conversation, and truly hearing the other person’s needs and goals.

Keep your body language in mind.

In addition to holding a balanced conversation, it is important to carry yourself in a friendly and professional manner. The basic friendly gestures like eye contact, smiling, and attentive nodding will get you pretty far in helping potential clients feel comfortable.

Remember to also keep your arms uncrossed to show that you are open to conversation, and keep your body turned toward people while they are talking to show that you are intently listening. Most importantly, don’t overthink any of these tips so much that you feel unnatural!

It’s also worth noting, that while holiday parties are often a more relaxed atmosphere, it is important to remember to present yourself professionally. Remember, every person you meet is a potential client!

Get contact information.

Finally, once you’ve had a great conversation and listened to your conversation partner, don’t forget to ask for a business card, email address or phone number to stay in touch. Following up is just as important – and often more important – than making a great first impression.

If you miss the opportunity to get contact information in person, be sure to follow up with a social media invitation, and a short message about your conversation. Follow through is a key to creating and solidifying relationships!