Insider Exclusive: Turn Holiday Mingling Into Networking Opportunities

Insider Exclusive: Turn Holiday Mingling Into Networking Opportunities

By:Debra Fine

’Tis the joyous season once again. Fill up on holiday cheer with tasty treats, gift giving, and plenty of parties—most of you probably can’t even contain your excitement! Well, not so much for those with holiday or social phobia. For you, holiday anxiety may be a bit overwhelming. So, what do you do when you find yourself standing in a room full of strangers at a holiday open house, office party, or social gathering?

A)  Stock up on food and find someplace comfortable to hide.
B)  Hang out by the bar and wait for someone to approach you.
C)  Escape when you recognize the opportunity.

Answer: None of the above. Learn to be a skilled small-talker!

When meeting new people—or even socializing with old acquaintances—starting conversations can make many people feel nervous or apprehensive. It can be difficult to enter a room filled with strangers everywhere you turn. Meeting all these people and engaging in conversation with them can be exhausting and overwhelming. But it does not have to be this way. Skilled small-talkers turn holiday gatherings into opportunities for success. In fact, they realize that these holiday functions are great for networking and (gasp!) meeting potentially interesting people. 

Whether you are at a business meet-and-greet or a client’s open house, you can use conversation skills to build new connections, while avoiding awkward pauses and uncomfortable conversations. After all, any relationship, whether business or social, starts with small talk.

Mastering the art of small talk is not only essential in forming new relationships, but also in creating lasting positive impressions. Great small-talkers are made, not born.

This holiday season, turn every conversation into an opportunity for success!

Conversation Killers to Avoid
1. “Are you married?” or “Do you have any kids?” If their response is no, where are you going with either one of these? Nowhere interesting, that’s for sure.
2. “How’s your job at [place of employment]?” Unless you know the person well, assume nothing! Do not put them on the spot with these types of questions. A good alternative to this question, that won’t put you in the same trap is: “What’s been going on with work?”
3. “How’s your partner?” What if they left, took all the money, kids, and the house? How awful!
4. “Who did you vote for?” Stay away from political statements of opinion. Once again, making assumptions while conversing with others is likely to get you in trouble here as well.
5. At all costs avoid “Is that real?” or “Are those real?” Either answer to those questions is likely to cause uncomfortable feelings.

Debra Fine will be offering her program on networking and mingling skills at the 2019 ABA Marketplace. She is a keynote speaker and bestselling author of The Fine Art of Small Talk: How to Start a Conversation, Keep It Going, Build Networking Skills—and Leave a Positive Impression. Learn more at

About the American Bus Association

The American Bus Association (ABA) is the trade organization of the intercity bus industry, with more than 1,000 motorcoach and tour company members in the United States and Canada. Its members operate charter, tour, regular route, airport express, special operations and contract services. Another 2,800 members are travel and tourism organizations and suppliers of bus products and services who work in partnership with the North American motorcoach industry.


Melanie Hinton, Vice President, Communications & Marketing, ABA
Office: (202) 218-7220
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