Christmas – the most wonderful time of the year…for networking!

However, if you’re one of the many people who approaches networking events with trepidation, don’t worry; Matt Perkins, Head of SME Engagement at FreeAgent, which provides the UK’s market-leading online accounting system specifically designed for small businesses and freelancers – has some tips.

Look out for a friendly face

If you’re standing on your own in a room full of strangers and you’re feeling nervous, think how relieved you’d feel if someone came up and introduced themselves! At any festive networking event, there are bound to be a few people in this position, so if you find yourself at a loose end, look around the room for a friendly face, take a deep breath and strike up a conversation. Everyone’s a winner!

Be authentic

Have an ‘elevator pitch’ in place – but be very careful not to be too rehearsed or you’ll sound insincere. Use it only as a guide to quickly and effectively explain what your business does and what opportunities/partnerships you’re looking for.

Remember your business cards

When you go to a festive networking event make sure you bring plenty of business cards with you, but perhaps even more importantly, make sure you collect other people’s cards too. It’s often a good idea to offer your card during a conversation – that way the other person may feel compelled to offer you their card, or it will at least give you an opportunity to ask for one! If you don’t fancy hanging on to all the paperwork, you could use one of these business card reader apps to snap pictures of the cards and then save the images to your phone.

Be polite!

Butting into an existing conversation is a big networking faux pas, so do try to avoid it. There’s nothing worse than someone jumping in with a big ‘hi!’ when you’re mid-conversation in a useful discussion!

When you’re chatting to someone at an event, make sure you give them plenty of time to speak and listen to what they have to say. You can often gain a lot more information and assess a potential partnership/opportunity by simply listening to what’s being said.

Work the room

Even if you’re really enjoying a conversation with someone, try not to hog that person for too long or you could end up missing lots of other potential contacts in the room (or making the other person miss some!). The best way to network is to establish a mutual interest, make the connection, exchange cards and arrange to follow up over a coffee or phone call at a later date.

If you need to move on from a conversation, be polite and tactful. You could invite someone new into the conversation and then step away when the moment’s right, or offer to introduce the person to someone else in the room.

Remember to follow up

When you make a new connection at a festive networking event, make sure you follow up with them quickly afterwards. You could send an email the next day to say ‘nice to meet you’ or – even better – you could include a personalised note with a LinkedIn invite and build your network of online contacts at the same time.

So there you have it: some tips to see you through the festive networking season!

Remember that when you attend an event you’re not just setting out to connect with the people in the room. Every single person there will have their own personal network; make a good impression and they are likely to be happy to introduce you to people outside the room – that’s what networking is all about!


Matt Perkins is Head of SME Engagement at FreeAgent, which provides the UK’s market-leading online accounting system specifically designed for small businesses and freelancers. Try it for free at