The invitations start rolling in the day after Halloween. People cannot wait to celebrate the holidays and the concept of tying a ribbon around another year. I enjoy free food and drink as much as the next guy, but last year I made the decision to try and use these opportunities to meet potential new clients.
The trick to networking at parties is that you have to be subtle. Folks are there to have a good time and the last thing they want is some hard sell on why they require your services. One approach that I like is to reflect on your year in practice. A good point of entry is to ask people how their year has been. This will allow you to learn a bit about what they do and, when they turn the question back on you, to tailor your response to be applicable to them. If you hit it off, make sure to get their card and plan to ask them to lunch in the new year.
Another approach I like is to pair up with someone who you know, but is outside your normal social circle. If the two of you work the room together, you will likely both be introduced to more people than if you were being a lone wolf. Plus, this shifts the burden of tooting your horn to your friend. Just make sure to reciprocate.
Of course networking works best when it seems unforced and when you’re having fun. Don’t lose sight of that. A couple of final tips: Don’t drink too much and avoid foods that you’re likely to spill on yourself. Happy holidays!