Networking tips for the holidays

I don’t know about you, but one of my favorite things about the holiday season is making the rounds of all the holiday parties. It’s not just the abundance of goodies and all the opportunities to watch people stealing kisses under the mistletoe – there’s something about this time of year that makes people a little more festive…a tad bit jollier. Of course, another bonus of the holiday party season is all of the networking opportunities. Wait…did I just see some of you scowl?? Let me guess – these networking opportunities actually make you anxious because you don’t know how to take advantage of them in a way that feels natural. Am I right? Well, let’s do something about that and see if we can’t get you in shape to be a networking rock star this holiday season.

Cousin Eddie: NOT a smart partier.

Cousin Eddie: NOT a smart partier.

The first thing to keep in mind is to PARTY SMART. What do I mean by this? Well, there are generally two types of holiday parties – personal and professional. Personal parties are usually everyone’s favorites – friends, family, loved ones, you know the drill. I’m guessing you won’t need to do much networking at these parties, though the tips I’ll be giving can come in handy in those unusual situations when your cousin’s new girlfriend happens to be the head of development at a major studio. If this is the case: play it cool! And keep some of what’s to follow in mind.

The professional party is almost always about networking in some manner — people in the business getting together to make new connections (and solidify the ones they have) while they celebrate. Now, I know a lot of people who cringe at the thought of having to go to professional parties — a trip to the dentist sounds more appealing to them (no offense, dentists). But I like to think of these parties as opportunities. The key is to go into them with an open mind and look to make authentic connections with interesting people. It’s not about hunting down contacts like your career depends on it; it’s about planting relationship seeds that will grow down the road. If you’re not familiar with the Networking Principal of Farming, Not Hunting, check out this blog post.

Before going to a professional party, make sure you’re clear about what your intentions for going are. Think about who might be there and what kind of opportunities might arise. Make sure you have a Soundbyte prepared for that inevitable moment when someone asks you, “So, whatcha been up to?” You don’t want to hem and haw your way around an answer, but you also don’t want to sound like a robot giving an automated response. The key with a Soundbyte is to comfortably (and briefly) give someone an idea of the important things going on in your life and career. Think of it as a trailer, as opposed to the feature film of your entire life. The best trailers are always the ones that give just enough information to entice, but don’t lay out the entire story for those who may not be interested. Soundbytes are a key element to networking authentically, and if you need more support with them, check out the Artists In Action Marketing & Networking package.

Clooney needs to update his marketing materials if this headshot is still on his website.

Clooney needs to update his marketing materials if this headshot is still on his website.

Being prepared, in general, is crucial to holiday party networking. Yes, having a good Soundbyte is one way to do so, but it’s not the only way. Think about all of your marketing materials — are they in tip-top shape, ready to represent you in the best possible way? If you give someone your website address, is it up to date with all of your relevant information? If your reel or your resume is online, are they as current as they could be? Actors, how about those headshots? Do they look like you circa 2001 or 2011? Writers, are those writing samples ready to go? And don’t forget about Facebook! My guess is that the majority of people out there will be following up with new acquaintances by friending them. If that’s the case, how are your profile and wall looking? And what about those photos? Anything you’d be embarrassed about? If nothing else, getting familiar with Facebook’s privacy settings is a good place to start – that way you’ll be able to control who sees what, which could save you a lot of angst down the road.

Ultimately, the most important thing to remember when you’re heading out to party this holiday season is that your attitude is everything. You can put on your best game face all you want, but if you’re anxious or disdainful it WILL show through. So rather than putting pressure on the situation, make it your aim to have fun. Wait…fun at a party?? I know, what a crazy idea!!

Be open to possibilities and, above all else, be YOU. Trust me, the more natural you are, the more people will genuinely gravitate towards you. And before you know it, 2012 will be here and those holiday seeds you planted will be bearing all kinds of fruit. Party away!