1. Find the person standing alone.A tactic I use is to strike up a conversation with someone else that looks alone at the event. I literally walk up to those people, introduce myself and say, "I hate standing alone at these events, and assume others prefer to not stand alone either, so I figured we can chat!" and then go into some openers. Some examples of openers include: • What brought them here? • Do they know anyone? How did they meet? • What are they working on that maybe they were hoping to find some resources at the event to move their project along? They key here is to gently ask good questions that will get them talking. Chances are the other person will appreciate that you’re including them, and as a result be more willing to open up and have a conversation.
2. Come from a place of service.There is nothing more irritating than someone at a networking event who immediately starts pitching themselves upon meeting someone. Rather than going to the networking event thinking about how many people you need to talk to, how many business cards you need to collect or what deal you need to close, consider going with the intention of being helpful to someone else. Even setting out to help just one person can be more effective than handing out business cards. Get in the spirit of the holidays and attend these events with service in mind. It takes the pressure of “networking” off of you and can open the doors to building relationships that may very well lead to opportunity later on.
3. Take advantage of the holiday small talk.The holidays present us with a ton of conversation starters that we can’t call upon the rest of the year. According to Debra Fine, author of The Fine Art of Small Talk, you can ask questions like “What are some your family holiday traditions?” or “What is your favorite thing about the holiday season? Why?” This opens the door for conversation instead of forcing one to occur. Eventually the conversation will lead to everyone’s favorite small talk question “So, what do you do?” This is when you can bring up career goals or the fact that you are looking for a job. The point is to use this time of year to let a conversation about your career come up naturally. You can find a list of holiday related conversation starters here.
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