Many people believe the upcoming holiday season means networking becomes unproductive. Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, holiday networking is one of the most effective strategies for accelerating business results.

Too many professionals see the non-business emphasis of events such as Christmas parties, gift exchanges or formal holiday banquets as a waste of time. They either skip them entirely or skip out early, once they feel they’ve made the show of being there.

The dichotomy of business networking is that it’s about developing relationships, not driving revenues. Doing business with others is, in fact, a by-product of relationships. So participating in holiday events is an opportunity to develop more and deeper context with clients, colleagues and contacts, and accelerating your chances for success.

Here are five strategies to maximize holiday networking.

Embrace these events. They are powerful and productive relationship-building experiences due to the shift in focus from business to personal areas. Meeting spouses, asking about family or sharing holiday plans are excellent opportunities to demonstrate you care and develop new areas of interest. And people are naturally more open about these areas at this time of year.

Prepare for holiday networking success. Discover who will be in attendance that you might want to meet or connect with. Can you arrange to sit with an influential colleague or key prospect? Remember, investing an evening with someone, especially when it focuses on personal areas, creates an incredible connection. What better way to jumpstart your revenues for the new year?

Maximize the holiday networking process. Accept that this is not a night off, it’s one of your most important and effective business development activities when used properly. Be on your best behaviour; limit (or better yet, abstain from) alcohol intake; keep conversation topics positive; watch your table manners; respect your table partners. And lastly, make this an evening to remember for those around you. You will then be remembered.

Accept that business is secondary. Put business on the back burner. You will, of course, be asked what you do. Have a strategic and succinct positioning statement prepared and ready, But resist the temptation to expand on your product or discuss your company. Rather, ask for a business card or your conversation partner’s contact info and suggest you will follow up after the event. That way, you won’t bore others and keep the focus in the right place.

Follow up after the event. It is proper etiquette to thank the host/hostess. Send a personalized note or call to thank the person for inviting you, even if it’s a company event. Express appreciation and compliment something relating to the event. This should be done within 48 hours. And don’t forget to contact those people you connected with, They’re waiting for your call. Use the common interest areas you discovered to create additional contact.

Holiday networking is an excellent opportunity to renew relationships and create new ones. They hold incredible potential when used wisely. What ideas or insights do you have to help others maximize networking during the upcoming holiday season?