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November 20, 2017

Holiday party tips to keep you off the naughty list

It’s that time of year. If you live in the Northeast, you wake up and it is dark out. You leave for work and it is dark out. You leave work and it is dark out. We have gone from being hot in a button-down shirt to freezing with a winter coat on in what seems like 24 hours. Christmas decorations are in every store, dancing in front of our faces upon entering. Co-workers are planning holiday travel.

If you are in Philly the Birds are on top and none of this matters! If you are in NY the Giants are at the bottom and it feels darker and colder. If you are in New England you are used to this as long as Tom Brady has been playing. And if you are a Jets fan the weather seems to change every week.

On top of all this, we have entered the 6-week abyss known as... Holiday Party Season! Good food, an eased dress code, smiling faces, (sometimes) open bar, gift exchanges and a much more relaxed atmosphere.

Whether preparing for your own company’s festivities, client events or both, there are definitive ways to put your best foot forward while at the same time avoiding many of the landmines that exist. 

Here are a few tricks of the trade:

1) People are Watching - Holiday party time means time to relax and enjoy getting to know your colleagues outside of work, right? To some degree, yes of course. But while it might not be held against you in a court of law, what you say might be used against you. Unwind - yes. Gossip about co-workers - no. Have some fun - yes. Act like you in are the Tom Cruise Movie Risky Business - not a great idea. Which leads to...

2) Act like you want to be treated ... in June - What happens at the office party won’t stay at the office party. It just won’t. Many a reputation have taken a hit that has been hard to recover from as a result of allowing words to flow like those glasses of wine. While some might chalk it up to being a one-time thing, it still can potentially impact how others view you.

3) Politics, religion and ... - You know how the rest goes. This expression has been around for what seems like ages. While society may now be more excepting of conversations around all of these topics, the chances of one putting his or her foot in his or her mouth when it no longer feels like a work event and more like a fraternity party. There are many, many topics that can carry a conversation that are not as divisive and do not create the tension that talking about politics might.

4) Be Inclusive - Let’s face it, we’ve all been there at some point in time. There will be people at the party that will have a harder time connecting with others than you do. Include them. Bring them into conversations. Sit with them. Spend some time with them. It is the right thing to do, a good thing to do, it will make you feel great and it says a lot about you to other people. This is a good practice in any scenario where there are people who seem to be standing on the outskirts of the room, or alone. It really does say a lot about you (and what it says is really positive!)

5) The Stare - This is a no-no in general when it comes to networking situations. There is nothing more insulting than when speaking to someone who clearly looks right past you because someone seemingly more important is now in view. I’ve referred to this as "paparazzi eyes" in the past. It is offensive to the person who you are talking to and is extremely unimpressive to the person you are looking to and are about to approach. Stay in the conversation and stay present. It always works out much better.

Matt Eventoff is the founder of The Oratory Project. The Oratory Project (T.O.P.) is a mission-based service focused on delivering customized, proprietary workshops to enhance the communication skills of "at-risk" young adults in order to empower them, help them gain confidence and help them grow professionally.