With party season underway many businesses have jumped on the festive band wagon to celebrate. But end of year celebrations differ to that of regular work events, in that this is the party that most people actually attend.
It’s a great chance to network and socialise with people who you may see every day but may not have the chance to get to know. It could be anyone from the CEO to the newbie.
So, to ensure you make the most of this year’s last office get together, and avoid getting stuck in that awkward conversation where you can only comment on the weather, here is some great advice from the business development manager at The Career Consultancy, Ruth Morgan.
1. Do you have any tips for starting conversations? Or have a favourite icebreaker?
“It’s a time to keep things light as people don’t want to be grilled during the one time they’ve been looking to letting their hair down, so apart from the obvious “what are you doing over the Christmas break?” perhaps “What’s the cleverest Kris Kringle present you’ve ever received?”, or talk about some of the past Christmas functions, especially if it’s your first year with the company, ask what they did last year.”
2. What are some tips you have for holding conversations at these parties?
“It depends who you’re talking to… There are always amusing things that happen over Christmas when family and friends get together so perhaps start by talking about one of your experiences which might give some insight into your background, values, sense of humour etc. and will help build a better relationship with someone next year, and give a reference point to kick off a conversation with in the New Year.”
3. Are there any areas of conversation people should avoid?
“Christmas can be a very emotional time for people, especially for those who don’t have family they can catch up with. So perhaps don’t be specific by saying “what are you and your family up to over Christmas” or talk in detail about your family Christmas before checking the other person’s sensitivity to the topic. Money can also be an issue in this economic climate so don’t assume that people are going away on holidays… This is a rare opportunity to socialise and to find out what you have in common which will provide you with a springboard for conversations next year. Just like at interviews, people will remember you by the stories you tell and the pictures you paint, so have a good story ready that gives them an insight into you. However, it’s not an interview, so don’t make it all about you!”
4. Can you tell us any festive jokes that could make conversation lighter?
“Hmmm, not one of my areas of speciality I’m afraid. I can never remember a joke from start to finish. Clearly one of my Kris Kringle’s should have been a joke book! Perhaps this could be a good icebreaker by asking people for their favourite Christmas jokes!”
5. What tips do you have for furthering an networking made at these functions?
“You want to be memorable, but for the right reasons [and] not the wrong reasons. Take the opportunity to have a social/informal conversation with someone you don’t ordinarily talk to. Remember, some of the executives will be attending these functions and may not know all the people in the business, so take the opportunity to speak to, and make yourself known to, them. Typically people feel most comfortable talking about themselves, so be observant and focussed on the person you are talking to and the conversation will flow. Don’t make the mistake of speaking with one person, but keeping your eye on the next person you want to talk to, as you will come across as being disinterested. Relax, focus, listen.
Outside of the company, people may have time to catch up for a coffee, either in December or January, so start planning some networking meetings while people are in planning mode. Remember, a lot of people come back after Christmas and move onto other jobs, or move interstate, so make sure you’re front of mind.”
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