The Unwritten Rules of the Business Christmas Party

It's countdown to Christmas and you may have already been to two or three parties by the time you read this article. So far I have three parties on my calendar and one will be held at a business association.

When planning to attend a business Christmas party, plan is the operative word. Whether the party is hosted by your company, a client, or a business or professional association relax and enjoy the event, but remember that you are at work. To make the most of your invitation, focus less on revelry and more on building or renewing relationships.

Be mindful that you are being watched and evaluated, because Christmas parties have a long-standing reputation of providing a stage for outrageous behavior. Assume that those in attendance are waiting for someone to obviously over-indulge on alcohol, or maybe slip out of the door with someone other than her husband.

Your Christmas party planning starts when you create the agenda you will follow while there. First, polish your elevator pitch. Second, make a list of other presumed party guests that you'd like to speak with after you've chatted with your contact at the organization (or your boss, if you are an employee) and questions you'd like to ask them.

It is advisable to refrain from attempting to consummate a deal at the party. Aim to schedule a time to follow-up at a later date. Oh, and make sure that you create a good first impression by following the requested dress code. When none is specified, wear what is considered standard business attire in that organization.

Because alcohol is inevitably involved, it's best to implement your action plan while everyone is relatively sober. Arrive early. Get your introductions made and have important conversations as early as socially acceptable. Have only one alcoholic beverage and then switch to mineral water with a slice of lime or lemon. You will look as if you are having a cocktail and prevent yourself from drinking too much. Leave the party sort of early.

As you work through your must-meet list, extend yourself and meet others. When you see someone standing alone, walk up and introduce yourself. Start a conversation by asking if they come to this party regularly. Meeting and greeting are the essence of every party.

When Christmas party invitations arrive, recognize them for their potential networking value. Think of a business Christmas party like a conference that doesn't have presentations, where you can meet or reconnect with colleagues, meet a new strategic partner, or even a new client.

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