How to network during the holidays

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On Wednesday morning, Evelyn Williams, the associate vice president for leadership at Wake Forest University, will share several tips on how to network during the holidays.

Here are the tips she will discuss:

Empathetic listening

Party chatter can be more than small talk. As you exchange demographics – where are you from, where did you go to school, where do you work -- look for deeper connections. “What uniquely connects you? ‘Oh, my aunt and uncle live in the town where you went to school. They love it. Did you like living there?’ could be one way to do it,” Williams says. “Research tells us that the more unique connections you can find with someone, the more persuasive and influential you can be with him/her. But empathetic listening is more than that, it’s about having an orientation toward truly understanding someone else’s perspective, to discovering what they found interesting or memorable on an emotional level.”


Williams says influence is about exchange. What do you have to share? Can you introduce them to someone else at the party they would enjoy meeting? Did you read a recent article that might be helpful to them? “People like to return a favor, and they might share something you need to know too.”


Cialdini’s research shows people are more easily persuaded by someone they like. Be thoughtful about how you present yourself in conversation. “Talking about potential is much more exciting than talking about what you’ve already done,” Williams says. “Don’t rehash past successes. It’s seen as bragging because you’re focused on the past.” Instead, Williams advises you use the opportunity to talk about upcoming projects or objectives you’re excited about because that will be more exciting to other people. Moreover, while research tells us that using flattery does help you appear more likeable, expressing sincere gratitude can set you apart.


Williams suggests sharing relevant information from highly respected sources is another gift to offer. “You may not have authority, but you can quote it! What does the Wall Street Journal or Forbes say?” she says. “What did President Obama say about a certain topic?”


When supply is low, demand goes higher. “Position yourself as a scarce commodity,” Williams suggests. “You might say, ‘I’m only going to have room for a few projects next year, so I’m really excited about the one we’re going to be doing next month with you.”

Commitment and Consistency

As you’re ending your conversation, this is the time to try to build a stronger relationship, especially if you are using your networking to find a new job. Instead of asking for a lunch meeting, which is a big commitment, Williams suggests starting small. “In terms of persuasion, if you can get someone to commit to a small thing, like permission to follow up by email, you begin to build a relationship. Then the next time, you can send an email asking to meet for coffee.” Make sure you follow up on whatever you’ve agreed to so you are consistent in your actions.