Work Christmas parties. Some people love them, some people dread them.

Whether you’ve got a full calendar of upcoming events or just your own work party, that work party is 5 or 500 people or if this is your first of your fifth work Christmas party the same questions tend to creep up every November/December.

People tend to build work events and networking up as scary or intimidating, but if you can view it as an opportunity to connect with new people, build new relationships and learn new things it’s a lot more appealing. The mindset and approach are key.

In anticipation of the upcoming festive season I’ve pulled together a guide on work Christmas party dos and don’ts to help ease the stress and help you maximise the work party season:

At a work Christmas party don’t…

Get drunk.

It’s an obvious one but important to keep in mind. Nobody wants to be that person at a networking event, even if it is the festive season. A few drinks are absolutely fine, but people will remember if you take it too far, especially if you follow up later in the week with a business-related request or question.

Use your phone.

98% of Irish adults now own a smartphone, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok to use them in company. Put it away, unless you’re obviously tweeting or promoting the event you’re at. If you’re taking photos with your phone always ask if the person minds you sharing the photography on social media.

Get too political or personal.

Keep it light and professional. Oversharing should be avoided. With regards to politics, there’s a time and a place. Judge the mood and crowd, if it seems natural to bring up a topical political issue go for it. Staying in tune with your audience is what’s most important.

Be ‘salesy’ or talk about money.

Only bring up projects you’re working on if it comes up naturally in conversation. If you think a connection might be beneficial bring it up after the event. Connect on LinkedIn and invite the person for a coffee or to a meeting. A hard sell at a party or event doesn’t work with an Irish audience.

Say yes to everything.

If you’re invited to a lot of work events over the Christmas period protect your time and only say yes to those that are valuable. Quality is better than quantity. How do you measure the value of an event?

I often base this on who else will be there, another important factor for me is taking into consideration if it’s the right thing to do. Sometimes it might be tempting to stay in, but it it’s important to your company or the host try to go along.

At a work Christmas party do…

Listen!

Be engaged with the person you’re speaking to, listen actively – it is a skill. There’s nothing worse than someone looking over your shoulder or not paying attention to what you’re saying. It’s a personal pet peeve, I have so many stories from over the years however they have all built my confidence and resilience.

Be curious, be interested, be genuine.

It goes a long way to authentic networking. Body language can be crucial here, simple things like a smile and eye contact are remembered. Low energy and negative body language are also remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Research.

Know the crowd you are going to meet.  If possible, and appropriate, ask for the list of attendees. If you have received the list in advance reach out on LinkedIn to connect in advance – it makes it so much easier on the day.

It can also be helpful to have a few topics prepared that you’re comfortable talking about. If you have 4 or 5 it’s a nice way to avoid awkward silences. Fail-safe topics are always holidays, what’s happening in the news (check Twitter), Christmas plans, Christmas traditions and of course, the weather.

Keep your sense of humour.

You will meet all sorts of people, some you will connect with some you won’t (I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve been called Sinead instead of Siobhan) don’t take it personally, the other person could be having a bad day.

Follow up!

This is the most important piece of advice I can give. Always bring your business cards and get a business card, or connect on LinkedIn, after meeting people at events and office parties. I’ve recently got a digital business card which is better for the environment and can also act as a nice talking point. Follow up within 24/48 hours, any later and the person might forget. If appropriate, invite the person for a coffee or for a more formal meeting.

Pay it forward

You will meet and cross paths with people who are always looking to add value or help by making connections.  People really appreciate it. Ireland is a small market and if you can help someone they will always try to help you back.

Lastly, one of the most common Christmas party questions, what should I wear?

If in doubt keep it safe and always check dress code! You don’t want to be the person who turns up in jeans at a black-tie event. I personally love a nice pattern or a strong colour but being comfortable and appropriate is always the most important.

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