There was a time when “social” and “networking” had a different meaning. Professionals scheduled time to meet in person and share a meal, play some golf, or have a drink, to discuss business opportunities and to get to know one another a bit better- mixing some social with their networking. This face-to-face, human interaction was instrumental in closing thousands of deals and cementing countless business relationships. Unfortunately, with the explosion of online social networks, much of the “social” side of networking, has become obsolete today. Handshakes are replaced by “likes”, we send pics rather than picking up the phone to share memories, and we “follow” colleagues rather than sitting down face-to-face. We “network” without much socializing.

In defense of this new dynamic, the new “social networking” is simpler to manage. With the typical workday stretching well beyond 9-5 and the unending demands placed on us by today’s society, there isn’t much wiggle room in our schedules for more than a brief click. And as the holidays roll around, the demands on our time increase 10 fold. Personal commitments seem to fill our holiday weekends before October has even come to a close, and the last thing you have time for (or interest in) is an evening spent making idle small talk with colleagues with whom you have spoken with. So when the evite arrives from the local chapter of a marketing group or sales organization, your first instinct is to reply with a resounding “NO. I don’t have time.”

Not so fast. This year, as the holiday season approaches and the opportunities for in-person connections, begin filling your inbox, it would be a great time to bring back the “social”, solidify those baseline relationships, and more importantly, build new ones in a more genuine, face to face capacity.

5 Tips for Putting the Social Back in Networking This Holiday Season

1. Prioritize your events. Chances are, there will be many holiday socials from which to choose. Take this opportunity to attend the events for the organizations you want to know more about or whose members you have not had the chance to speak with during prior events. The more you click with a group and its members, the less it will feel like work, and the more fun you will have!

2. Timing is everything. Choose wisely and be realistic about your commitments and your calendar. Spacing out your social networking opportunities to one or two per week will prevent you from burning-out while allowing you to enjoy the social aspect.

3. Cast a wide net. Use the social season to explore new groups or organizations you’ve heard about or whose meetings you have not been able to attend in the past. Not only will you be able to learn more about the group itself, but you will likely form new relationships.

4. Don’t go it alone. Because holiday socials do not include an educational component and are purely for socializing, use this as an opportunity to bring a friend, vendor or client and introduce them to the group.

5. Get to know THEM. Don’t lead with your business card and keep quiet about your latest sales numbers. Grab a glass of wine and a bacon-wrapped date. Ask questions and listen to the answers. Engage in conversations beyond 140 characters. Introduce them to others you might know at the event. Share a bit about yourself beyond your title and company, but don’t boast and engage others.

The hustle and bustle of the holiday season began the day the first pumpkin spice latte hit the market. In addition to the standard scheduling pressures, this time of year always adds an extra layer. So why not make the most of it? Try some hors d’oeuvres, grab a glass of wine and take the opportunity to enjoy the social in your networking.

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