As I was explaining my trainer at the gym today why I couldn't possibly keep a straight diet over the holidays and that Sukkut is knocking on the door, where I'm expected to wine and dine for seven days, not to mention eight days of Chanukah in just a few weeks and that one day of fast over Yom Kipur couldn’t possibly off set all these challenging days…He paused and smiled. He said "I am in such an awe of how the Jewish people imprinted deep down in their culture the importance of tradition, holidays and feasts. We (he is Catholic) have 1 day of Christmas and 1 day of Easter gatherings around food. You guys have months worth of occasions where you have big meals. But at the same time, I now understand how strong your community is as it provides such strong infrastructure for you to meet old friends and welcome new ones. The longer the occasions are, the deeper you network with one another and succeed." This conversation made me think about the holidays and gathering from a completely new perspective…a networking perspective.
I am not suggesting walking into a sukkah and distributing business cards but it is a good time to walk in with a new mind set of getting to know new people and starting conversations framed around getting to know the needs and likes of others while looking at ways of meeting these needs. Isn’t what networking is all about? I don’t think that Abraham had that in mind when he invited the 3 angels in disguise into his tent, but the end result was a win-win for both parties. Networking comes naturally for some and is a huge dread for others. No one likes to be “sold” into a service or product, especially over the holidays. But true good networkers are successful at that no matter what is the occasion. Here are some tips that might work for you.
1. Arrive on time. Not only it is considered rude to be late, but it also helps you get situated and get comfortable with the environment and people. It is easier to find other people who don’t have conversation partners yet.
2 It’s all about relationships. Never ever offer your services or products in such gatherings. People have gathered together to celebrate the holidays. Remember, networking is all about relationship building. Keep your exchange fun, light and informal –People are more incline to do business with – or partner with – people whose company is enjoyable.
3. Start a conversation. To get the conversation started, simply walk up to a person or a group, and say, "May I join you" or "how do you know our host?" Don't forget to listen intently to their replies. I always vote for doing listening than talking. There is so much you can learn about other people’s expressed and unexpressed wishes, If only you’d listen.
4. Share your passion. Attract people with your enthusiasm, not for your products or services, but for the outcome and impact they have over other people. Leave a lasting impression by telling a story about why you were inspired to get into your field or create your company. Talking about what you enjoy is inspiring and contagious. When you get other people to share their passion, it creates a two-way conversation.5. It’s not about what people think about you…It’s about how you make people feel about themselves when they are around you. Best way to engage and be engaged is by really being in the present, totally fascinated with the people and conversations that you are part of. As soon as you glance sideways, looking at who has just arrived, or checking an incoming text on your phone, you have lost the connection.
6. Be Positive. Attitude is contagious. You all know people who you feel energized to be around them and people who make you tired immediately. It is all about their attitude and appreciation for life. Do your best to avoid complaining, and other negative remarks. You might think that sarcasm is funny, but sarcasm, in the wrong dozes, gives you a reputation of being negative. Look people in the eye, use their name repeatedly, listen to what they have to say, and suggest topics that are easy to discuss. Don’t forget to smile. A real genuine smile invites others to come to you. You must have a good reason to be happy about.
7. When it’s appropriate make sure to follow up. If you have spotted a way that you may be of a help to someone, remember to ask what is the best way to follow up with, send a referral or just email a good article about that topic. Since it is all about relationship building and not selling, stay in touch with people. Let them know how they can contact you.