The holiday season is an excellent time to meet potential clients. Many organizations would like to put projects into motion early in the new year. More decision-makers than you may realize are on the lookout for the kind of focused expertise that Solopreneur consultants provide. Do what you can to attend gatherings that appear to have good networking potential.
You may receive an invitation to a party where you know only the host. Don't shy away. Accept and devise a winning game plan to see you successfully through what might otherwise be an awkward clunker of an evening.
Call the host (complete the Evite as well, if that was sent) to personally RSVP and express thanks for the invitation. Tell him/her that you look forward to meeting the party guests and tactfully inquire about who was invited, so that you can ask for introductions to those whom you'd like to meet. Right away, you'll make the host happy because you've identified yourself as a good guest.
Tip: Since meeting your next client will be an important reason for attending, go alone. The last thing you'll need is a friend who detracts from your agenda, or takes over a conversation that is going well for you.
While at the party, enable the networking process. Do your best to be (appropriately) friendly and authentic. Have the courage to extend yourself and greet people, especially others who are alone. They will be grateful that you've rescued them. When in conversation, allow the other person to talk about themselves. After introducing yourself and offering up some pleasantries about the nice party that you're both at, "How do you know (the host)?" is a great ice-breaker.
Practice the art of mingling. When conversation seems to hit a dead-end with someone, excuse yourself to refill your plate or drink (two drink limit, please!) and find someone else to talk to. Do not intrude on conversations that appear to be private. Remind the host to make your requested introductions.
When meeting your VIPs, resist the temptation of promoting yourself. If you know something of the guest list in advance, search LinkedIn or Twitter to get a career update, so that you can "serendipitously" ask questions that will allow your wish-list guest to talk about him/herself (and make yourself look good for asking).
Use the 80/20 Rule and cede 80% of the conversation to the other person and spend 20% talking about your own life and business (unless the VIP really wants to know more about you). If it seems appropriate, suggest post-party contact and do a card exchange. Ask for a good time to call/email---December or January?
Leave social media out of the party. Do not even think about posting a photo on Facebook or Instagram. Do not invite a VIP or anyone else you've just met to join your LinkedIn network.
Finally, knowing when to arrive and exit a party are important social skills. Especially when you do not know anyone on the guest list beyond the host, arrive at 6:30 PM for a 6:00 PM - 9:00 PM affair, so that you will have several people to talk to. Unless you are in a good conversation with follow-up potential, make your exit (thanking the host on the way out) when 25 % - 35% of the crowd has departed. You want to be present when the party is at its peak. Now go and check your email and look for invitations!
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