Rethinking the Holiday Party

by Clason, Patricia Sunday, December 01, 2002
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Do I really have to go to the office holiday party? My significant other’s office party?

The Holiday Office Party may seem to be the last place you want to be this season; however, I suggest you rethink its value to you.

The party can be an opportunity to do some networking, reinforcing of relationships, and getting to know people you might not otherwise get to meet. Most importantly, everyone needs to remember that it is not a time to drink hearty, party hearty and not remember it when you get up the next morning.

Rule 1. Remember, it’s business! Just because the bar is open and the food abundant, doesn’t mean you have to take full advantage of it. Remain professional at all times. Wear clothes that are business formal (as opposed to business casual or your other party clothes). That may also help you to remember to act professional. You don’t know who is watching, and you don’t want to be the focus of the next day’s gossip.

Rule 2. Remember, it’s business. If it’s a buffet, take small plates of food, especially if it’s a stand-up event. Eat minimally. Focus on the people you are meeting, not the food.

Rule 3. Remember, it’s business. Whether it’s cash bar or open bar, keep the alcohol to a minimum as well. After a drink or two, ask for soda, put a stir stick in it and pretend. Staying sober will keep you present. You won’t say something you will regret or not remember. You will remember who you met and why you might want to meet them again. You’ll also be able to hold your head up high when you return to work or see your fellow party attendees again.

Rule 4. Remember, it’s business. Have business cards in your pocket. Or calling cards if you aren’t currently employed and are a guest at someone else’s party. It’s okay to exchange cards, although most people may not have one with them. (So be sure to have a few pieces of notepaper and a pen so you can excuse yourself and go write a note to remind yourself of the important people to contact after the holidays.)

It is a party, so keep it subtle. Surface conversation about their work is okay. Be sure to make part of your conversation about something other than their work or yours.

If it’s a friend or significant other whose office party you are attending, it’s not necessary to stay connected. Mingling will get you to meet more people and keep you from focusing only on your partner. Set up some guidelines in advance so expectations are clear. If you want to be introduced to someone in particular, ask.

Rule 5. Remember, it’s business. Don’t talk about politics, religion, diets, or tell off-color jokes. Prepare yourself before the party with some discussion topics - read the paper, listen to the news, have a movie or two to talk about. When you join a group of people, listen to the conversation for a while and then add something appropriate. Remember that most people like to talk about themselves - and you want to know more about them - so ask questions that make them feel you are sincerely interested in them, and then listen!

You can make the Holiday Office Party a valuable, pleasurable and positively memorable experience if you just remember the most important Rule - “Remember, it’s business.”