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How to work a room during the holidays

Tonight I'm going to a business-related holiday party. It means leaving my house and family at one of the busiest times of the day, dinner time. When most of us strive for work life balance, we know there are some instances when we have to give up family time for work events, particularly around the holidays.

But if I'm making the trade-off, why not work the holiday scene efficiently.

Here are some tips for working the room -- a combination of my own thoughts and ideas from Men's Health:

Do your homework: Walk into the room prepared. Have an idea who is going to be at the event and have a few talking points to get the conversation started. You also may want to think ahead about who will be at the event that can introduce you to a person you want to meet. Don't be rude and look over the shoulder of someone you are in a conversation to scope out the location of someone on your must-talk-to list.

Don't wait to be introduced: Most people are in a good mood when they're at holiday parties and more approachable than at other times of the year. Take the risk and reach out to someone with whom you might not have opportunity to mingle.

Go easy: Start with light chat about the event or group, then segue into the specifics of your talking points. Even if that never happens or the person steers the conversation back to light banter, don't sweat it. You can follow up with email. You might use the opportunity to find out something personal about the person, their favorite holiday food or drink. You can use that detail in the follow up.

Organize yourself: Keep your own business cards in one pocket and reserve the other for the cards you'll receive.

Be on time: If you're one of the first guests, you'll adopt a hostlike mentality, meeting and greeting rather than taking cues from others.

Infiltrate a group: This is a critical skill. Find the most animated group in the room and join in. Start by quickly making eye contact with someone from the periphery of the group, and then introduce yourself with a firm handshake. Ask an open-ended question such as "What's your connection here?"

Reconnect with new contacts: Before you leave, double back to key people. A second meeting even on the same night makes them more likely to remember you. Wish them happy holidays or tell them you look forward to seeing them again.

Don't overbook: It's unrealistic to think you can really make it to two or three holiday parties in one night and work the room well. Pare it down to one event and make it time well spent.