How to Network at a Party (Without Acting Like a Loser)
Poor party networkers are on par with party crashers; they’re difficult to spot, they try too hard, and guests refuse to acknowledge them once they’re discovered. So how do you network at a party without looking like a first-class jerk?
If you have some time before the party, then try customizing some rad promotional products to hand out to guests (like Pop-Up Foam Visors – how awesome would it be to see guests wearing your logo all night?). However, let’s say that you didn’t plan ahead and now you’re scrambling for tips at the last minute. Relax, there’s still hope for all of you procrastinators!
Party Networking Tip #1: Arrive Early and Leave Late
Many parties involve alcohol consumption, but New Year’s Eve parties are notorious for overindulgence. Guests start drinking early in the night (especially if there’s an open bar privilege) and become downright intoxicated by the time the clock hits midnight, so you have to be an early bird if you want to see any success. Arrive early and start socializing with people while they’re still somewhat attentive. Also, you should only pass out your business cards if a guest has a genuine interest…you don’t want to be that guy (or girl).
Why leave late, you ask? Because it demonstrates responsibility. Someone has to clean up after the guests – whether it’s the host/hostess of the party or the venue staff – and you should be there to help. This will help you earn some brownie points with potential connections; you never know where a good lead will come from!
Party Networking Tip #2: Be Generous
As I mentioned, it’s ideal to personalize promo items if you have the time, but don’t panic if the party is tomorrow and you need to improvise. You’ll be all set if you have business cards and some petty cash! Generosity is the key to guests’ hearts. Stop by the grocery store and pick up some wine, snacks, or fun favors to bring to the party. Wine and snacks go fast when there are numerous guests, so the host/hostess will probably appreciate the extras. (Not to mention, people will probably view you in a positive light from the minute you walk through the door). And as for the party favors, I don’t care how old the guests are – EVERYONE loves them. People will have a good time and you’ll have an easier time breaking the ice when you initiate conversations.
Party Networking Tip #3: Don’t Overdo It
If you’re a guest at a bitchin’ party and you’re having a few martinis with your friends, then you’re probably not going to think kindly of a bold stranger who approaches your group and immediately tries to sell you on his business ideas. Remember the Golden Rule and treat other guests as you’d like to be treated!
Networking is about BUILDING connections, not cramming your products or services down someone’s throat. You won’t get anywhere with party guests if you’re too anxious to sell, so just take it easy. Introduce yourself and briefly explain what you do, but don’t overdo it. Ask guests about their professions and know when it’s time to change the subject; some people would rather not talk business while they’re at social functions, and that’s something you need to respect when the time comes. There’s nothing wrong with exchanging business cards if you’ve uncovered a need, but establishing a business relationship should be the main purpose of your schmoozing.
You have to know the correct time and place to network…otherwise you’ll do nothing but aggravate people and make them resent you! It would be a shame to lose potential professional relationships because you didn’t bother to plan ahead for a party!
Are there some vital party/networking tips missing from my list? Have you ever encountered a terrible party networker?
Jill has been obsessed with words since her fingers could turn the pages of a book. She’s a hopeless bibliophile who recently purchased a Kindle after almost 6 years of radical opposition, and she loves stumbling upon new music on Pandora. Random interests include (but are not limited to) bookstores, movie memorabilia, and adorable rodents. Jill writes for the QLP blog and assists with the company’s social media accounts. You can connect with Jill on Google+.