Festive social events offer an excellent opportunity for business networking, however, this is easier said than done when you suffer from shyness.
Unlike other networking events — which require ‘talking shop’ with contemporaries — the office party is dedicated to relaxation and fun. Because of this, standard networking tips may not be as effective.
Rather than running the risk that comes with resorting to an extra glass of liquid confidence, here are some low-key conversation starters and networking tips for shy people, so you can make the most of upcoming festive networking opportunities.
1. Compliment an outfit
Many people take time and effort when planning their party outfit, so a compliment is a nice way to get the conversation started—even more so if the event is themed!
2. Secure an introduction
If there’s someone you’re particularly interested in meeting, try finding a colleague who works regularly with them and ask for an introduction. This is a real icebreaker and will help you feel far less awkward.
3. Mention the food
The festive holiday period often concentrates its celebrations around food and refreshments and office parties are no exception. By positioning yourself near the food table, you can leverage the refreshments as a talking point. It’s a seasonal, light and friendly way to get the conversation rolling.
4. Work history
If you’re confronted with an unfamiliar face, you might like to start the conversation by asking how long your connection has been with the company. It shows that you’re taking an interest and gives a great platform for conversation.
5. Ask about last year's party
Whether you attended it or not, asking about last year’s office party provides a great start to a topical, casual conversation with colleagues. Ask whether they were there and what they thought of it, or give them your opinion and include some fun details about how the company celebrated.
Office networking mistakes to avoid
Before you head off to any festive networking events with your conversation starters to hand, it’s worth ensuring that you don’t fall prey to common networking mistakes.
• Be upfront
Nobody likes being approached by an individual with a hidden agenda. If you’re looking to expand your network, collaborate or pick someone’s brain, let them know outright.
• Don’t limit your circle of contacts
When you suffer from networking shyness, there’s a huge temptation to socialise with the colleagues you work with regularly and avoid anyone you aren’t familiar with. Networking is all about meeting new people, so try to expand your circle of contacts by taking the opportunity to be outgoing.
• Avoid being fashionably late
Being fashionably late doesn’t really work for office networking—in this instance, the early bird gets the worm. Although you may usually find comfort in sneaking in late, try getting there first. Knowing the layout of the venue will help you feel more confident and you won’t be confronted by a mass of guests.
• Don’t overindulge
Along with failing to mingle, overindulging is a primary networking mistake. Stick to water and soft drinks (with the odd champagne toast) so you can network with a clear head, minus any embarrassments.
Now that you have some conversation starters ready, take the time to practice your pitch and introduction so that when the time comes, you can deliver both seamlessly and maximise your career potential.