It’s that time of year again. Once the annual Black Friday/Cyber Monday shopping ritual has ended, the office Christmas party circuit kicks into high gear. Many use this opportunity to let loose and celebrate the festive season. But why not make the most of it and engage in some holiday networking? The relaxed atmosphere makes it easier to socialize without the formality usually found in corporate settings.

If you plan to attend a holiday networking party, here are some pointers to help you get the most out of your efforts:

Dress to impress. Yes, it’s a party but you also want to look sharp, not like you’re holiday partying at the in-laws. Leave the ugly Christmas sweater at home; first impressions still count.

Limit your beverage intake. You want to look like you’re having fun but not to the extent of being loud and incoherent as you hand out your business cards. This also applies to the appetizers. Though the pigs in a blanket may look appetizing, stuffing 2 or 3 in your mouth at the same time does not make for a good first impression.

Work the room. Don’t get hung up on speaking with one person all night long. This isn’t a dating mixer. Though you might click with someone you meet, spend 15–20 minutes chatting, exchange contact info, and move on. Follow up after the holidays in a setting like a coffee shop that’s more conducive to conversation.

Choose your location. Speaking of conversing at a party, best not to try to make yourself heard on the dancefloor. Instead, kindly usher the person you’re speaking with towards the edge of the room. That way, you won’t be in the middle of the hustle and bustle while you speak.

Leave the phone alone. There’s nothing more annoying than being constantly interrupted by e-mail alerts when you’re trying to make a networking connection. Ever speak with someone only to have them constantly checking their phone? It’s not only rude, but also totally disrupts the networking flow. Put your phone on airplane mode; your guest will thank you for it.

One is not a lonely number. Try to go solo to the party. Yes, we all love going to parties with our friends or coworkers. But then, you’ll end up talking to them all night, and networking goes out the window. Going to an event alone takes courage, but will push you to strike up conversation with others.

Don’t forget your cards. Make sure you have enough business cards on hand. Yes, many say business cards are old fashioned and no one carries them around anymore. Then why do I always see the fishbowl at the registration table overflowing with cards when I go to these types of events? Though it might be old school, people still exchange them. Also consider downloading a business card reader app on your phone, so you can scan any business card you receive. Card information automatically gets imported into your contacts so you don’t have to waste time physically entering the info.

Yes, these holiday events can be all fun and games but if you’re up to mixing in a little corporate networking, who knows? You might get the best gift of all in the new year… some new business.

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