Christmas Party Pointers

Yes, it’s that time of year again, folks. Mistletoe, silly outfits, enthusiastic eating and imbibing in carefully selected venues amongst colleagues, friends….or clients. Having seen over the years a few unfortunate slip-ups for professionals attending a client party – either as host or guest – I thought it might be opportune to offer a few rules of etiquette to guide everyone into the festive season with the minimum of fuss. In fact, if followed, a few positives could even flow. N.B. these pointers can apply equally well to your own firm’s staff party :-).

It’s all just you, you, you, you, you (not me!) People love to talk about themselves (and what they do)…but for professionals on the look-out to impress clients or prospects it’s an activity to be kept in check. In front of the mirror at home is good. Having secured the usual permissions, with your nearest and dearest is usually acceptable. During an appraisal it is self-evidently necessary.

But at a client Christmas event….we have observed some professionals (young and old) take the activity to negatively unprecedented levels: especially after a few drinks (see Pointer 2). Pinning clients to a wall with little prospect of escape is not a business vote winner. Instead, go out of your way to make your schmoozing focused on them. They’ll enjoy it and, if you do it well, you might even learn a few useful things that you didn’t know about them.

Always ‘on’ The saying, and quite possibly a legal precedent, goes that a police officer is always on duty – even when she or he is not (officially). If you are at a client Christmas event, be like a police officer in this respect. Festive social situations have a habit of lowering the usual discretions here, but it will pay to heed what our good angel always tells us – but which we can become deaf to via the “magic” of Yuletide.

Always ‘on’ means moderate drinking/other self-indulgence and knowing when to stop. That way you will impress clients and colleagues…and you won’t be the one spotted at a client party several years ago collapsed in a dishevelled heap – with a plastic flower protruding in an anatomically “interesting” manner.

Personality not push This is hardly going out on a limb, but in the context of the season, there is a particular need to break one of the usual rules. Normally, I spend a lot of time encouraging professionals engaging in social contexts with clients/prospects to find common ground, talk about them/their business and not be afraid to prompt the next step to a business dialogue – if it proves appropriate. Reticence to undertake the latter can be a big barrier.

However, I reckon the Christmas party is a bit different. It should be almost entirely free from ‘shop’ talk and be about engaging with as many people as possible to allow the force and beauty of your personality to stand out :-), because that is a key part of what clients say they buy (however cf. the caveats to this in Pointer 2!). So no, it is not the venue at which you launch out on the world’s most inappropriately timed ‘pitch’.

And finally have a happy and harmonious festive season.