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How to network at parties

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Now that the festive celebrations are over, do you have an emotional pit in the bottom of your stomache?

The party season can offer dazzling opportunities to nail that promotion or get a new job. Flic Everett has run her own small business, worked as an event planner and hosted parties at the vintage fashion shop she owned, so knows the best ways to network. Here, she shares her tips.

MAKE A PARTY PLAN

Attend events with a plan of what you would like to achieve. Whether your goal is to remind the boss who you are or you’re looking for clients, don’t hover on the fringes waiting for attention.

Set three achievable goals for yourself, such as “I will chat to people who know my boss and engineer an opportunity to speak to her,” or “I won’t talk to anyone I know for more than ten minutes because that means I won’t get to meet new contacts.”

If you’re shy, a plan will also give you a structure for the event and a sense of achievement afterwards.

FOUR SAFE TOPICS

Two glasses of champagne on an empty stomach can cause social havoc. Suddenly, it seems entirely appropriate to be telling filthy jokes to the lovely guy you just met - who may also be the owner of the company you need to impress - or to hold a group of senior executives spellbound with the story of your disastrous first date.

But it won’t do you any favours later - so pick four safe topics, which aren’t related to business, that you can discuss when slightly tipsy, without revealing too much personal detail.

Travel, TV shows such as Strictly or The X Factor, quirky news stories - though never politics - and Christmas plans are all safe ground. As a rule of thumb, any story that begins: “Oh my God! You’ll never guess...” is a very bad idea.

DON’T PITCH AT PARTIES

Good minglers know that while they might meet someone at a social event who can change their career, it’s bad manners to pitch there and then.

However tempting it may be, in your five-minute window of opportunity waiting to be served at the bar, launching into a spiel about your brilliant idea or asking directly about jobs is guaranteed to irritate them faster than a glass of red wine down their shirt.

It’s never appropriate to behave as if you’re in Lord Sugar’s boardroom, shouting: “Here’s why you should hire me!”

If the conversation naturally turns to work, it’s fine to indicate you’d like to talk further and offer a business card - but then steer the talk back to more light-hearted topics. When the conversation ends, you can simply say: “I’d love to follow up on what we talked about.”

FOLLOW THE 3D RULE - DRESS, DRINK AND DINE APPROPRIATELY

It’s always tempting to buy a new dress for Christmas parties - but don’t assume the sequinned hanky you’re wearing to friends’ bashes will also suffice for office-related events. Good network dressing means a bit of sparkle and an elegantly cut outfit that covers a good two-thirds of your body.

People still judge on first impressions - and if you scream “sex bomb!” you may not be entrusted with the sober task of re-structuring the department come January. As for drinking, everyone has a horror story of the colleague who went too far. It’s safer to save your boozing for friends’ events.

When networking, you should alternate wine with a soft drink, or designate yourself the driver. The food at the event is likely to be canapes or a buffet - and while it’s a bad idea not to eat at all, make sure you’re not cramming your mouth full of flaky pastry every time someone talks to you.

Choose canapes you can eat neatly - and don’t pile your buffet plate like a Jenga tower or you’ll still be battling through potato salad while your best contacts are getting their coats.

APPROACH ONES AND TWOS, NOT THREES AND FOURS

Most people are intimidated by the idea of breaking into a group who are chatting happily. Do you drift awkwardly on the edge until they notice you or stride in and cut across the conversation? That’s why it’s much easier to target groups of two.

Study their body language and, if they’re leaning inwards and are intently focused, don’t interrupt. But if they’re openly scanning the room, it’s the perfect moment. Say: “Hi, I don’t want to interrupt, I’m just introducing myself to a few people.”

If they’re unwelcoming or dull, you then have a valid reason to say: “Lovely to meet you - I must go and say hello over there.”

Equally, people standing alone are ideal targets - they may be waiting for their friends but, in the meantime, it’s easy to introduce yourself.

If you find yourself alone, go to the loo - and start a conversation in the queue.

LEAVE ON TIME

When your aim is to impress, it doesn’t look good to be the last one standing. Your goal is to appear in control, happy and busy.

Leaning on the bar and telling strangers why you got divorced as the cleaners vacuum round you will not leave a good impression.

However much fun you’re having, leave at the point where you think: “A couple more glasses won’t hurt.” That way, everyone will have seen you at your best and you’ll have nothing to regret.

Keep a record of who you spoke to, those you gave a business card and what you talked about. Then, a couple of days later, you can send a follow-up email referring briefly to the conversation and inviting them to keep in touch. - Daily Mail

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