Surviving Not Just the Year-end Office Event, But Others You Are Invited To

You are on the home stretch. You’re closing out your work year. The financials are being rolled up; the headcount counted; the reviews completed; the initiatives are coming to an end. The successes as well as the misses are being realized. It is the end of your work year. At this juncture, you just want to go home.

But you can’t.

What else could there be? Haven’t you talked enough? Worked enough hours? What else does the organization want from you? Well, it’s called attending that year-end event. It usually takes the form of that dreaded office party, holiday luncheon, year-end group or team event. Whatever your organization calls it. Every company has them. And if the truth be told by the participants that attend, such events are usually the last thing they want to be invited to or be “required” to attend.

I would often think to myself:

“I’ve got deadlines right now that I’ll be lucky to meet.”

“And you want me to take a break out of the day for an extended luncheon or show up at some place after work to celebrate?”

“I really have no time for this.”

However if you are like me you went anyway, often having no choice. If you didn’t go, you were either very ill (like in the hospital) or there was some compelling reason (which I never could create) not to show up. Having to meet a deadline was never a good enough excuse.

Then one year, I decided that if I had to go then I needed to make the most out of it. I decided to think of this not just as an end of year celebration with individuals that I had seen enough of (and they had seen enough of me), but an event that I could work to my advantage. I decided to make the most out of it by doing something simple – having a plan which included what to do or think about before I arrived; what to do while I was there interacting with others and; what I needed to do afterwards.

I believe that if you think about this and follow through with your actions, you usually don’t feel like you’ve wasted your time whether it is the year-end office gathering or any event at work throughout the year. You’ll never get away from being tired, but if you are like me, it helps you feel better if you know how to manage your way through it. More importantly, it helped me avoid engaging in frivolous conversation, eating food that was unhealthy for me and surviving a rash of questions that I really didn’t want to answer.

So, think about these navigation tips not only for the holiday season, but anytime that such an occasion is called for at work that you are invited to or must “attend”:

The Pre-Arrival

Decide before you get there how long you really intend to stay. This is the first thing that I think about at any event that I attend. It keeps me focused. Determine if hanging around until the luncheon is over or being the last person at the party really serves a purpose for you. Unless you are having such a terrific time that you can’t break away or are speaking with someone that is absolutely engaging, manage your time effectively and wisely.
Select one consistent thing that you want to share. I am a firm believer that no matter what work related event you attend, you want to have at least one thing that you are prepared to discuss or want others to know. Everyone will then have one unfailing story about you. Do you want to share something that relates to you in preparation for something else, like a new project coming your way? Is there something that you want to remind others of? Maybe you have a success story to share or a partnership that was a success. Create and share your consistent message.

The Arrival

1.Talk to those that you don’t normally see or interact with. I call this crossing “Org Chart Boundaries”. Don’t sit next to or hang out with those that you already know or work closely with. Use the event an opportunity for you to talk to someone that you normally don’t connect with or would need a formal or scheduled meeting to talk to. Many events that I’ve attended just didn’t have the team that I worked with but other individuals and groups in attendance also. In some of those other groups, I would sometimes know of a certain person or their work, but that was usually all that I knew. So I would take it as a chance to introduce myself to that person. What a great opportunity to request for permission to get on that individual’s calendar to continue the conversation. Such dialog creates no commitment from either person, but serves as a foundation for a follow-up at a later time. Don’t forget that often many things that happen related to work don’t happen in formal settings, so maximize the opportunity. Position yourself.
2.Listen intently and intentionally to what others are talking about. Often times, just joining a conversation and listening can be helpful. I’ve learned the best information sometimes by just listening and asking questions related to the topic being discussed. Don’t just talk about yourself, engage others and learn about them. Listening to others is not only respectful but can often provide you with insight about their thoughts or the things they are working on. This may help you later on especially if you determine that you would like them to be a part of your network at work or want to work on that project they mentioned.

The Departure

1.Keep it simple. The simplest action that you can do is say thanks to the host and/or meeting arranger. Then tell those around you good-bye with well wishes. The only one requirement is that if you commit to follow-up with someone, mark your calendar before you forget. Make sure you follow up at least before you see them again at the next year-end or general office event. Now it is time to just go home.

Flickr Photo: rlchung

I am Francine Parham. I focus on professional and leadership development. I help individuals develop the critical skills they need in their careers to be successful and achieve their professional goals. I have an expertise in professional networks and networking. I am the creator of a program named Maximizing Your Network™, which instructs you on how to build, interact with and maintain your professional network. My online instructor led series of “Maximizing Your Network”™ is being launched February 5, 2015. Please connect with me on francineparham.com

You’ve Now Got Access – Not Blowing Your Networking Opportunity

Your initial networking conversation has paid off. Communicating your signature introduction (my Nov.19th post); what you are trying to achieve; as well as your verbal commitment to follow-up during that introduction has paid off. The person you spoke with at that networking event, conference or business meeting has agreed to meet with you. You are now sitting in front of them. You are also hoping that this meeting will not be the last one as this is a valuable networker or connector for you.

“So how do you ensure that this is not your first and last meeting?

 

Know who you are talking to. Ensure that you have done your homework. Know who you are talking with especially if they are within your organization or a part of group that you belong to. If you did this as a part of your first introduction (hence why you wanted to meet them) then that is great. However, you probably didn’t have all of nor the most important information about the person. Better yet, you didn’t share all that you knew as you probably had very little time to talk. Others were also around wanting to meet with that individual as well. So now you are in this one-on-one meeting with them in which you have their dedicated and undivided attention. This is the time to share what you know about them and how it potentially intersects with the goal(s) that you are trying to achieve. This will clearly demonstrate that you are not wasting their time and you take seriously those that you meet and network with.

Make sure you are focused and able to communicate the outcomes you want. You may have mentioned what you were trying to achieve (i.e. your goals) when you initially met which probably piqued the interest of the person. But now you are sitting across from them and the clearer you can communicate your goals, the better. In other words, be very specific. Share your plans and don’t be shy as hopefully that is why you two are meeting. This is not the time to drop hints or make this a teaser leading up to a future meeting. You may not have the opportunity later on. Your lack of clear articulation or not having thought this through could mean that this is the last meeting that the two of you may have. The clearer you are, the greater probability that the person you are talking to can help you. If they cannot, then they are probably able to refer you to someone that can or to other resources. You want to be clear to ensure that they understand in case they need to communicate your goals to others that they think could also be of assistance to you.

Reposition, “How can I help you?” to “Here’s what I offer.” Make the person you are connecting aware of your skills. This will make you valuable from the beginning, showing your level of confidence. Also it will hopefully provide another opportunity for you and that person to continue to engage with one another in the future. Again if you have done your homework, you know what the person’s interests are professionally and maybe even personally. Maybe you have been able to find out projects or causes that they are interested in or are working on and they match with certain skills that you have and can offer. Please be sure that you have taken inventory of your skills beforehand. Make sure that the skills you offer are ones that you truly have and are good at doing or at a minimum, enjoy doing.

Share your social capital and be serious about it. Be ready to offer your connections as well. Even though you have sought out this person, you have connections just as they do. Offer yours as well, and not just a list of any names but individuals that you are sure would be willing to assist on your behalf for that person, if asked. Dropping names adds no value to you or the person that you are speaking with. If anything, it can backfire on you if you are not careful. The world is small so make sure that you know who you actually say it is that you know. And be knowledgeable enough about them and their skills and/or connections.

Discuss and commit to only what you can deliver and be timely about it. Oftentimes in out zest to be seen as helpful or viewed as a valuable resource we may over promise or over extend ourselves, but end up under delivering. This often goes for the person that you are meeting with as well. In their zeal to help you, they too may do the exact same thing. But the responsibility lies with you (you asked for the meeting) to ensure that you are both calibrated on what has been agreed to and when it can be done. At a minimum this will keep things moving along. Hopefully it will be only the beginning of several more conversations between the two of you.

Networking conversations are not always as straight forward. They can take many twists and turns based on the two individuals and the multitude of priorities that each one has to accomplish. Relationships take time to develop. The key is to make the conversations meaningful interactions by ensuring certain components are discussed and understood by both. The clearer the two parties are with one another as they communicate and meet (hopefully not just one time), the greater the chances of success for both individuals in achieving their respective goals.

Please share any tips or insights you have about how you have made your networking conversations beneficial. What has worked for you?

For additional information on preparing for your networking conversation, please read my PDF.

Flickr Photo: Hakan Dahlstrom

I am Francine Parham. I focus on professional and leadership development. I help individuals develop the critical skills they need in their careers to be successful and achieve their professional goals. I have an expertise in professional networks and networking. I am the creator of a program named Maximizing Your Network™, which instructs you on how to build, interact with and maintain your professional network. My online instructor led series of “Maximizing Your Network”™ is being launched February 5, 2015. Please connect with me on francineparham.com