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Business Etiquette: Maximize the Holiday Office Party

December 12, 2018
Stock photo with people at a event.

With the holiday party season here, business owners may find mingling at events challenging and teeming with seemingly unavoidable awkward situations. Enter Diane Gottsman, a national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas. Read Diane's top tips to help professionals sharpen their business etiquette skills and maximize their networking opportunities while attending holiday functions. 

By Diane Gottsman

If you think the holiday parties are the perfect opportunity to eat, drink and be jolly, you may want to think again. Overindulging on the holiday jingle juice and trying to kiss an associate or client under the mistletoe are obvious disasters to avoid, but there are other important details that can affect your professional image and ultimately your business.

To ensure you keep your glowing reputation intact, follow these tips:

1. Prepare in advance – Putting thought into your attire and arriving on time aren’t the only details to attend to before the holiday fête. Plan a few conversation topics that are lighthearted and engaging, such as asking a client about his or her favorite holiday tradition or where they plan to spend the holiday this year. 

2. Eat before you go  Even though the holiday party will offer more food and beverages than Santa has toys, have a small snack before you leave the house or office so you won’t appear ravenous and spend most of your time in the buffet line. Carry only one plate and go back through the line for dessert.

3. Don’t bring a “plus one” – Unless the invitation specifically states that they are invited, avoid bringing extra guests. It is bad form to call and ask if they may attend or to just assume no one will notice. 

4. Make a proper introduction  If the event is one of the few occasions you see the CEO or high-influencer client during the year, take advantage of the opportunity and make your presence known. By giving a proper introduction, which includes a firm handshake, eye contact and a clear delivery of your first and last name, you are setting yourself apart. Being the first to extend your hand for a professional handshake shows a confidence that is not easily overlooked. 

5. Work the room  When you arrive, make sure to greet your host and proceed to mix and mingle with other guests. Make a point to strike up conversations with people you don’t already know, or don’t see on a regular basis. A good guest understands their primary role is to make the host glad he or she invited you. 

6. Watch your liquor consumption  Conversing with clients and collaborators or making a positive impression on a customer means you have to be totally alert and quick on your feet. Use restraint and your best judgment by limiting yourself to one or two drinks, even if your colleagues or clients are taking holiday shots in the back of the room.

7. Dress appropriately for the occasion  You can certainly dress festive and be a bit creative, but don’t wear anything that would make Santa blush. You want to be noticed for your dazzling conversation, not your lack of good taste. 

8. Don’t leave without saying “goodbye”  Slipping out the back door can prove to be a disastrous career move. Obligatory good-byes are not only polite but necessary. Keep in mind that you also don’t want to be the first to arrive or the last to leave the party. 

9. Make sure and thank those who coordinated the party  Acknowledge the efforts of those who planned and put together the event. This simple gesture is a way to set you apart from the competition who disappeared out the emergency exit thirty minutes after the party started. 

10. Smile, you are on display  On the eve of the event, put on your best suit, your brightest smile and bring some holiday cheer to the party. Jump in and offer to help if you see the host struggling to keep the drinks stocked or the appetizers moving along. Make it a point to be a team player and leave a lasting impression. People remember common courtesy.

For more of Diane’s etiquette tips, visit her website, The Protocol School of Texas on Facebook, and follow her on Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter. Purchase her new book, Modern Etiquette for a Better Life.

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