The holiday season is not only a time for festive decorations and gift-giving but also an opportunity to foster camaraderie and build connections in the workplace and at industry functions.
Work-related events during this time of the year provide a unique setting for networking, as colleagues and potential clients come together to celebrate the spirit of the season. These gatherings, which can take place right into the New Year, offer more than just a break from the daily grind — they create a platform for professionals to connect on a personal level, share experiences, and build lasting relationships.
“You’re there to start building relationships because people prefer to do business with others they know, like and trust,” says Cambridge Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Greg Durocher. “It’s not about being the salesperson, because you’re not selling a product or service, it’s about selling yourself and building a relationship to the point where people want to start doing business with you.”
One of the key benefits of networking during holiday season workplace events is the relaxed atmosphere. This informal setting allows professionals to get to know each other beyond their job titles and responsibilities.
Additionally, holiday season work events often include activities that promote team building. From festive games to group activities, these events create opportunities for collaboration and teamwork. Working together in a different context can reveal new aspects of colleagues' personalities and skills, leading to a deeper understanding of each other's strengths and abilities.
Also, networking during holiday events provides a chance for professionals to express gratitude and appreciation.
Embracing the festive spirit of the season, professionals can build meaningful relationships that extend beyond the workplace, creating a supportive and collaborative professional network that lasts throughout the year.
Here are some tips to make the most of business networking at this time of year:
If you want people to know you’re approachable, remember that body language is important so try not to cross your arms and legs, or use objects (drinks or plates of food) as potential barriers. Also, maintain positive eye contact and lean in slightly to let others know you are interested and engaged.
While the atmosphere may be festive, remember that you are still in a professional setting. Maintain a level of professionalism in your interactions, even in a more relaxed environment. How you greet people at these events can impact their perception of you. A warm and firm handshake, or a light touch on the arm or shoulder can create an instant bond.
Prepare An Elevator Pitch:
Be ready to succinctly describe your business or professional background. A well-crafted elevator pitch can make a lasting impression during brief encounters.
Dress for Success:
Wear appropriate attire. Always remember this is a business event. Festive and stylish is great, but flashy or too revealing can be unprofessional.
Limit Your Smartphone Use:
If you can, leave your smartphone at home, or try to keep it out of sight. Constantly checking emails and texts while talking with fellow partygoers can send the wrong message.
Update Your Business Cards:
Ensure your business cards are up-to-date and bring plenty with you. The festive season can be a great time to exchange contact information.
Send personalized holiday cards or emails to your professional contacts, expressing gratitude for the collaboration and partnership throughout the year. It's a thoughtful way to strengthen relationships.
Set Realistic Goals:
Set specific, achievable networking goals for each event. Whether it's connecting with a certain number of people or initiating conversations with key individuals, having a plan can make your networking efforts more focused.
Join Online Networking Events:
If in-person events are limited, consider participating in virtual networking events. Many organizations and platforms offer online gatherings where you can connect with professionals from the comfort of your home or office.
Utilize Social Media:
Share holiday greetings and updates on your professional social media profiles. Engage with your network online by commenting on their posts or sharing relevant content.
After the event, follow up with new contacts promptly. Send a personalized message expressing your pleasure in meeting them and suggesting ways to stay in touch.
The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is easing its way back into hosting traditional events.
After more than 20 months since the pandemic began, the Chamber is set to host its first in-person Business After Hours event on Dec. 13 at Four Fathers Brewing Co. in Hespeler.
Chamber President and CEO Greg Durocher says is an important step for the organization.
“It’s a priority for the Chamber to start getting back to in-person events,” he says. “But whether they will be ‘normal’ as we all remember them, that probably won’t happen for some time.”
In fact, Greg expects future Chamber events will be of the ‘hybrid’ variation to a certain degree, providing Members the chance to attend in-person or remain in a virtual setting.
“That’s going to be for the benefit of everybody,” he says. “But we will certainly provide Members with value in regard to our content the best that we can.”
He says having an in-person Business After Hours event is important to many Chamber Members.
“It’s important for people doing business in the community to have an opportunity to meet safely with others face-to-face,” says Greg, noting the importance of following strict safety protocols and restrictions set out in the Province’s Reopening Ontario Act.
As a result, participants will not only have to register in advance, but proof of vaccination is required as well as identification that matches that material.
Just like restaurants, the provincial QR code will also be utilized at the event.
“Most of our events take place in other venues, such as conference centres, restaurants or meeting rooms that are not ours,” says Greg, noting regulations set out in the Act apply to these locations.
As well, the Cambridge Chamber Board of Directors recently passed a mandatory vaccination policy for the Chamber office for staff and visitors arriving for meetings or programs. Those with a valid COVID-19 vaccination exemption, or having valid documentation to present, will be required to take a rapid antigen screening test before entering. These tests will be provided by the Chamber at no cost.
“These are precautionary measures put in place on behalf of the staff because our staff want assurances they are working in a safe environment and we’re doing whatever we can do to make sure that happens,” says Greg, adding like many businesses, the Chamber office is also covered under the Reopening Ontario Act and is entitled to invoke a vaccination policy.
Creating a safe environment will also be key at the Business After Hours event which is why the Chamber will provide colour-coded lanyards to participants when they arrive.
“Each colour will indicate that person’s comfort level of contact,” says Greg, noting that physical distancing and masks remain important. “Some people are very anxious to get out and meet others in-person, and others are anxious to get out and meet but aren’t quite comfortable enough to do so.”
Business After Hours takes place from 5-6:30 p.m. For more, visit https://bit.ly/3pdiUVI
Having employees return to the workplace will be a welcomed sign for many as an indication the worst days of the pandemic may finally be behind us.
But that return will be accompanied by questions and concerns as businesses and their staff learn to navigate what is likely going to be a very different work environment – both professionally and personally - compared to the one they left in March 2020.
“There are a lot of employers and HR people who right now are putting together some policies and codes of conduct for their workplace,” says Julie Blais Comeau, Chief Etiquette Officer at Etiquettejulie.com, explaining that these guidelines will be imperative for employees. “At first, generally speaking, we’re all going to follow our employers’ guidelines.”
But outside of these guidelines there will be the personal interactions with both co-workers and clients, many of whom returning employees may not have seen in-person since the start of the pandemic.
In terms of these interactions, various safety protocols we’ve all lived with for the past year and half – wearing masks and staying socially distanced – will likely remain at the forefront of our minds when we once again are face-to-face with others.
“Before asking any questions or displaying certain behaviours, you’re going to think back to your relationship with that person from before,” says Julie, suggesting approaching from the perspective of ‘friend or foe’. “You’re going to want to switch that lens 180 degrees and approach them from an empathic perspective. How do you feel that person perceives you?”
She recommends letting a person’s body language guide you, noting that 55% of communication is based on body language and that tone and pitch of the voice make up the remainder.
“Make sure that whatever you’re going to do or say will be perceived in a positive manner,” says Julie. “There will be nothing wrong with saying, ‘I’m so glad to see you again – how are you?’. And then wait and observe the visual cues.”
She says taking the cues from the person you’re interacting with is very important, noting that in some cultures personal health issues are not something that is shared, while others may prefer to keep their mental and physical health status private.
“If you’re going to ask questions then ask yourself why are you asking? Are you generally concerned or being cautious for yourself or is it just curiosity?” says Julie, adding being ‘nosy’ is not a valid reason. “What is the context of why I’m asking and what could be the consequences if it’s not interpreted well?”
When it comes to sharing one’s vaccination status, she says it’s OK to volunteer your status if you are comfortable with that person but that others may not feel the same.
“Some people don’t want to say because they’re afraid of confrontation and afraid the other person is going to lobby for them to get vaccinated,” says Julie, noting there are many reasons why a person may choose not to be vaccinated. “I think we have to be very benevolent and respectful for the people who don’t want to.”
Questions surrounding vaccinations and how employers must handle this issue is a key concern right now says Victoria Vati, Account Manager at Peninsula Canada. The company provides a variety of services pertaining to human resources and health and safety.
“Each individual workplace has a number of staff all of whom will have a different level of understanding and different opinions,” says Victoria, noting ensuring staff remains safe but also feels secure are top priorities when it comes to implementing workplace guidelines and policies.
She says her company has been providing the latest information regarding the vaccines to ensure its employees have the education they need to make informed choices. Also, she says some companies may even provide a day off for employees to get their vaccinations.
“Finding a balance that works not only for your industry but for your staff will be the most important thing,” she says. “Not every business has the luxury of having employees work from home. You need to find a good balance that meets health and safety requirements but doesn’t infringe on anyone’s human rights.”
She says screening and contact tracing will continue to be very important, as well providing things such as hand sanitizer and even wearing masks.
“You can still argue right now masks are mandatory and must be worn in common areas, especially when social distancing rules cannot be applied,” says Victoria, adding businesses can insist masks continue to be worn even if they are no longer mandatory in public places.
She says ensuring employees are aware of the health and safety policies that are in place is vital through signage and written communications.
“If you don’t have it in writing, it doesn’t really exist,” says Victoria, referring to guidelines and polices.
She says the pandemic may have provided businesses with a unique opportunity.
“Let’s try to come out of this with new ideas and a bright fresh start; it’s kind of having hit the reset button,” says Victoria.
Julie agrees and says etiquette is also constantly evolving.
“We observe with this great microscope what is commonly agreed upon as to what is acceptable for a large group of us versus another,” she says, referring to etiquette experts like herself. “Society dictates what is appropriate.”
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