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    Your Christmas Party survival guide

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    If the idea of networking and making small talk with colleagues and associates makes you consider avoiding the festivities, PA Life is here with some top tips on bossing it like a pro…

    If you hate networking, this time of the year can be a struggle, but a new study by Loughborough University and Imago Venues has revealed the most and least effective ways to network. As part of the study, conversation analysts Professor Elizabeth Stokoe and Dr Magnus Hamann observed how people behave and communicate in networking spaces and how their actions were influenced by the environment they were in.

    Based on the findings, they have identified several research-based tips to enable people to network better:

    Know where to place yourself in the room Christmas party venues come in all shapes and sizes. Some can be large and busy spaces and it can be difficult to know where best to place yourself to network. Try starting a conversation in the food or drink queue, at a standing table, or at a sitting table. The researchers found that food and drinks queues were easy to join and exit, but sitting at a table locked people into a longer chat. 

    Put your glass on a table If networking makes you nervous, arrive at the networking area early. Get a drink and place your glass on a standing table. The visibility of the glass creates an environment for people to interact. It invites others to place their own drinks on the table to create a cluster and they start talking.

    Join the conversation To join a conversation, you need to become part of what ‘gesture specialist’ Adam Kendon calls an ‘interactional circle’ – a circle of people who are already networking. When people talk, they arrange their bodies so that they have equal access – gaze, hearability – to everyone in the group. A good way of joining the circle is to position yourself in direct line of sight of the people who you want to interact with. They are then likely to realign the circle and welcome you in. 

    It’s not just ‘hello’ which starts a conversation A great way to start a conversation in the networking spaces is to approach a standing table, armed with a glass or plate and ask the person already at the table: “Is it okay if I also put my glass down here?” Once you get the go-ahead, you can assess whether they want to talk more. They’ll indicate this by moving their body towards you and asking you something… or not.

    Don’t be a mis-greeter Don’t say hello to someone and then look over their shoulder for the ‘more important’ people in the room. 

    Networking conversations are time-limited Sometimes we might want to leave a conversation early – while appearing to leave on time. One advantage of not knowing people at a party is that you can invent a reason to leave a conversation and they’ll be none the wiser. But the researchers observed that good exits are built from questions that imply the end of the conversation by pointing to future actions, such as: “Do you know where the next part of the entertainment is?”

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    Stuart O'Brien

    All stories by: Stuart O'Brien