Aptly named the ‘silly season’, the run-up to Christmas is usually the time when businesses throw caution to the wind on the hosting front. Strengthening relationships and having fun tend to come to the fore, while belt holes and expense slips are January’s problem.
That said, 2020 hasn’t been a normal year, and as a result this year’s ‘silly season’ is likely to be much more subdued. So how can you continue to build rapport and have a few laughs with your valued clients in the time of scotch eggs and face masks? We spoke with some of our clients to see how they’re navigating the Covid/networking/Christmas minefield and looked at their favourite alternatives.
A 1:1 drink:
This was a laughable concept in 2019 when the festive merriment of Leadenhall Market could probably be heard from London Bridge, but with tier rules in place and the City much quieter than in previous years, an outdoor beer (or two, with a substantial meal) is one of the best options. Certainly, drinking less and fewer distractions may put more pressure on conversation, but this could also be valuable facetime for rapport building. Arranging to meet somewhere convenient for both parties (not necessarily in the centre of town if working from home) helps to lower the formality and reduce the ‘corporate’ feel.
Another popular choice is to opt out of festive hosting altogether, and instead spend the money that you would have gladly lavished on drink on a thoughtful gift (regulations permitting). This completely avoids the post-invitation awkwardness that your client may feel about explicitly acknowledging that he/she doesn’t want to meet for a drink owing to Covid restrictions. Your gift – perhaps a Christmas hamper or selection of wine – will not just benefit the client, but can be enjoyed by their family as well. A friendly note about catching up for dinner in the New Year wouldn’t go amiss.
To be avoided where possible. For internal teams, family and friends, Zoom drinks are still a good option for socialising at a distance (although a touch tiresome at this point). But for clients and external parties, the term ‘organised fun’ springs to mind, and it can be trickier than you might think to strike the correct tone. Instead, perhaps arrange a relaxed pre-Christmas Zoom catch-up where the agenda is brief and you’re able to discuss a little business before moving onto festive plans etc. Make arrangements for this call relaxed and informal, and don’t be offended if it is postponed in favour of more pressing business. If that does happen, pop something in the post and make a loose plan for 2021.