While a dynamic presence in a meeting can win you professional acclaim from your peers, the truly successful know that it’s how you interact outside of the office that will make or break you. Creating and maintaining a great rapport with your fellow professionals, even your least favorite ones, is something one can’t learn only by reading. It is a fine art, one that can only be mastered through practice and diligence…and a healthy amount of patience. There is no better place to practice your inter-office rapport building than a company cocktail party or business mixer. Read on for some quick tips to refresh your etiquette and keep you working the room.
Know Your Role
The business mixer has it’s own unique dynamic, and knowing just what type of event you’re going to be attending is key to your social strategy. Is this an informal occasion with a few Hors d’oeuvres and a small, limited bar? Check your invitation, but it is likely this type of event will not require any formal dress, and the purpose behind it is to simply allow guests to mingle. Consider the more formal style of business mixer, one with seating arrangements and a full bar as well as entrees. The invitation should specify, but it is more likely formal dress and a full evening are expected. Generally these types of corporate gatherings are reserved for the end of a business season or making a big announcement.
Look the Part
This may apply more to the men in the audience than the women, but business casual does NOT mean nice jeans and a polo. Opt for slacks and compliment them with a sports jacket or a classy button down shirt. Leave the jeans and Tommy Bahama shirts at home. When in doubt, ask the host if the invitation does not specify. Also, its usually best to err on the side of caution and over dress a bit. Taking off an item of clothing is better than showing up without it, and as the old proverb goes, “it’s never a bad thing to be the best dressed person in the room.”
Have a Goal and Execute Accordingly
You should walk in the door knowing what it is you want to get out of the event. Whether that be impressing the boss with your clever, witty banter or getting on a first name basis with the special guests in attendance, you must focus your energy on achieving these goals in the appropriate way. Working the room with a purpose helps to project a positive, driven persona to those you’re speaking to and will leave a lasting impression. Make a point to introduce yourself to others and never stay with a “safe” group of friends too long. Don’t forget your goal, and remember that while it is never a bad idea to schmooze accordingly, no one likes a brown noser. Act accordingly.
Be Modest and Mingle Appropriately
It goes without saying, but getting drunk at a business party may not do too much immediate damage, but can follow you longer than you ever thought. Leave the boozing for the plane ride home. It’s best to limit yourself to one alcoholic drink per hour to keep your wits about you and energy level high. Don’t feel comfortable standing around without a beverage? Order a coke on the rocks, or a tonic water with some lime, the only person who will know there’s no alcohol in the cup will be you. On the same token, when there is a buffet available, it’s best to patiently wait your turn and sample lightly. Most people will never notice if you make multiple trips, however, everyone will notice your tiny plate stacked precariously with every appetizer on the table. Keep food and drink in your left hand to allow you to confidently shake hands with new acquaintances without having to make an awkward movement. Ask open ended questions of others that require more than a simple yes or no. Listen attentively and when you’re ready to move on, don’t make a show of looking around the room trying to escape, simply wait for a pause in the conversation and offer an “it’s been a pleasure meeting and talking with you, I hope we get a chance to meet again.”
When it’s time to head home
Make a point to thank everyone around you, we emphasize the importance of thanking the host. Seek them out and say it in person every time. Your exit does not end there, however, and the truly elite social strategist knows the key to being a show stopper with your manners takes only a little bit of extra effort. Send a handwritten note to the host the next day, personally thanking them again and letting them know what a great time you had. It’s likely you may be one of very few, if any, who take this extra step and the couple seconds it takes are well worth the spectacular impression it will make. Also, any new contacts you may have made should be sent an e-mail to letting them know it was great to have met them and you look forward to staying in touch. Again, nothing special given how easy it is to send an informal e-mail to multiple people at once.
Keeping these tips in mind the next time you’re ready to attend a company sponsored mixer will keep you looking and feeling good while projecting an image of class and success that will have others dying to do business with you.