Don’t be a Christmas party pooper


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 a few unfortunate slip-ups for professional people attending their own or someone else’s party, it’s perhaps opportune to offer a few rules of etiquette to ease everyone into the festive season with the minimum of fuss.  In fact, if followed, a few positives could even flow….

It’s all just you, you, you…People love to talk about themselves (and what they do)…but if you’re on the look-out to impress, 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 often acceptable.  During an appraisal it is, self-evidently, necessary.

But at a Christmas event….we have observed some people (young and old) take the activity to negatively unprecedented levels: especially after a few drinks (see below).  Pinning colleagues or clients to a wall with little prospect of escape is not a 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’  This is one especially for when you are away from home at someone else’s ‘do’.  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 someone else’s Christmas event  be like a police officer.. in this respect.

Festive social situations have a habit of lowering the usual discretions, 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 that we (and many others) 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 encourage professionals engaging in social contexts with colleagues, clients or prospects to find common ground, talk about them/their business or issues and not be afraid to prompt the next step to a dialogue – if it proves appropriate.  Reticence to undertake the latter can be a big barrier.

However, 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 people say they buy (however cf. the caveats to this above!).  So no, it is not the venue at which you launch out on the world’s most inappropriately timed ‘pitch’.

James Newberry runs People Scope, a consultancy, training and coaching firm working with lawyers, accountants and other technical specialists to help them operate successfully outside of their comfort zones.