Tips for cutting deals at a drinks party.
An increasing amount of business is carried out away from the office in social or 'business/social' situations. But are business people sufficiently prepared to network and cut deals over the canapes? The following tips may help.
Plan for the occasion as carefully as you would for an important meeting.
Try and get hold of a guest list - a quick glance through should enable you to assess who you want to speak to and what about. If the list is not available, think carefully about the type of event and the organisers and decide on the type of person you aim to meet.
Avoid spending all evening speaking to guests you already know. Likewise, avoid approaching only strangers who seem less important and less intimidating.
The purpose of the occasion is to develop useful business contacts. You must build up the confidence to target what for your business are the key players.
Have ice-breakers ready. Choose topics on which everyone is likely to have an opinion, avoid technical or specialist subjects.
Prepare a short description of yourself and what you do. Make sure it provokes questions and discussion without being too self-congratulatory or deliberately mystifying. Follow this up by encouraging others to talk about themselves.
Finally, know how to get away. Making a graceful exit can be hard. Try introducing a third person into the conversation and then politely leave them still talking. Watch out for signs that the person you are talking to is thinking of getting away - shifting eye contact is a classic.
Susan Croft is an oral communications consultant at The Aziz Corporation, 0171 329 0225.