A Gen Y guide to networking during the festive season

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Small talk with strangers can be daunting for the best of us and having to do it over and over again at Christmas functions can be a frightening concept. However, Corporate Christmas functions can provide great opportunities for networking in a social setting and if utilised correctly, can open doors for forming new connections and relationships.

The ability to engage and converse about multiple topics in a short amount of time is a skill that does not come easy for most. Recognising this, we have compiled a short list of tips to assist you in making the most of your time spent at functions this festive season.

  • Preparation is the key. Many networking experts suggest being across current news and events is a great first step. Emphasis should not be placed solely on hard news, but instead on a variety of topics such as popular culture or upcoming events and summer festivals.
  • The occasional awkward silence is inevitable, so it is helpful to prepare a few conversation starters in order to keep conversations flowing. The Fine Art of Small Talk author Debra Fine suggests coming up with three things to talk about, as well as four generic questions that will get others talking.
  • Although planning is important, it must also be noted that nobody likes a scripted conversation. Good networking is about making a connection, with the primary hope that the person you are talking to will want to converse with you again in the future. This is more likely to occur if you are able to associate with someone, rather than perform scripted lines.
  • Conversation should never be too personal. “I enjoy playing tennis on the weekend” is perfectly acceptable, but “I can’t stand my boss” is not. Some things are best kept to yourself and no matter how well you are getting on with someone, there are still lines that should not be crossed at professional functions.
  • Listening to others is vital. Everyone’s favourite topic is themselves and it can be easy to do all the talking, so you need to make a conscious effort to listen just as much as you talk.
  • It can be easy to be drawn to people that are familiar, but it is important that you push yourself to step outside your comfort zone and meet new people. It’s also important that you don’t dismiss someone early on. You never know how a person might be of assistance until you get to know them.
  • Exchanging contact information is a must. There are multiple smart phone apps that allow users to connect instantly with nearby users and to share contact information such as business cards wirelessly. There are multiple different applications available, but in essence most of them allow the user to scan business cards in order to save the data on the card onto their smart phone. One particular app allows users to ‘bump’ phones together, so that they can wirelessly swap contact information.
  • Follow up. If you make a connection with someone follow through with it. Connect with them on LinkedIn, or send them an email saying how nice it was to talk with them.
  • The biggest don’t, especially for those partial to a glass or two of wine, is not to drink too much. Just because it’s free doesn’t mean you should indulge. Although many Christmas functions occur out of business hours, your behaviour still reflects on you professionally and your actions can impact on your professional reputation as well as your organisation’s reputation.

Two of Font’s very own Gen Ys have these networking tips:

Carla: Research as much as you can. Research the hosts, the company and who is going. Develop a pitch about who you are and what you do and establish opening lines that will assist you to generate conversation. Business cards are also important, always remember to take them.

Cedric: Whatever you do, try not use your mobile phone. Try not to be anti-social and don’t be afraid to approach people.

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