A question of the holiday season for many professionals is “How far can holiday party networking be carried?” For the most part, I think the best response is, “It can be carried about the length of a handshake.”

We have all observed nightmares under the guise of networking at holiday parties. From the person who gets tipsy and makes a fool of him- or her-self to the drunk who insults people, to people who just cannot separate business from pleasure. Some of the common unpleasant experiences might include

  • The person who thinks the dinner table is the place to launch his best sales pitch at someone at the other end of the table.
  • The entrepreneur who becomes a new appendage to his or her business mentor
  • The business owner who wants to impress someone across the room and talks  about his or her business at a volume that stops all conversation in the room

There are other behaviors, as well, that are not as common or obtrusive, yet are simply
inappropriate. One thing I find irritating is the person who attends a holiday party with a ready supply of business brochures and business cards. This person clearly did not attend the party to celebrate the holidays. At least pretend to be uncertain that you happen to have a business card in your wallet.

Over-extending networking at holiday parties often creates a directly opposite impression from the intention. For example, carrying a stack of business cards looks rude and opportunistic. Many people think it rude to discuss business at all at a holiday party, at all. Never hand out promotional items for your business or give your own products as holiday gifts.

It is generally safe to assume that nobody at a holiday party wants to be regaled with the story of your “big sale” or wants to experience your sales pitch. By the same token, a party is not the time to bemoan your business struggles or challenges. It is important to remember where you are and why you are there. Try to avoid calling attention to yourself in any negative way. If someone is present that you want to meet, ask someone to introduce you and save the business conversation for another time.

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