Photo Credit to https://twitter.com/TheRoyalButler
Congratulations! You were just invited to that work party/event/BBQ/Christmas gathering. Whatever it is, you’re expecting to have a relaxing evening, sipping on some champagne, making friendly small talk with your coworkers. You’re hoping to have some fun. If that’s the case, I’m about to bust your bubble…
I used to work at a hospital. The Christmas parties were pretty wild. People were getting all sorts of ridiculous, from the doctors to the orderlies, everyone was out of control. Needless to say, a lot of people felt really uncomfortable the next work day. A few years later I found myself living abroad. The parties and gatherings were really different. It was a time for our team to make an impression on someone, to network, to establish our group, and to make sure others have a good time.
When invited to a party by your boss, you’re not there to have fun, you’re there to work. So, if you were expecting to have a good time, you can have your own party at home afterward, a pity party. Your mission is to conduct business, collect intelligence, provide operational support, and make guests feel at home. That’s it.
You probably thought I was going to go through 13 Rules to “Killing It” by being the life of the party, by out-drinking everyone, or by doing something crazy. Nope. By “Killing It” I mean doing a good job to support your team. If you want to read my take on networking and doing something possibly crazy, read about my exploits arm wrestling Egyptians.
1. Read the guest list before the event and do your research on them.
You know how you study for a test? This is your study time. Learn who will be there, what they do, what their background is, and what their interests are. You need to put together a “hit” list. Notice that I wrote that in quotation marks. I’m not telling you to kill anyone. This is a list of people that you want to connect with before the event is up.
2. Show up early and help.
Walking in fashionably late may be fine for guests, but you’re not a guests, you’re part of the team. Show up early and ask what you can do to support.
3. Bring a modest gift. Something like flowers, candy, or pastries.
Don’t be that person that walks in empty handed. Yes, you may be there to work, but don’t be a savage, take a gift.
4. Dress conservatively and appropriately.
Yes, we all own a pair of salmon colored pants, but this is not the time to try them out. Unless you’re in Europe, maybe. Anyway, this isn’t the time to make a statement with your clothes. With that said, a coworker of mine recently told me that because I’m “ethnic”, I can get away with taking more risks with clothes. I don’t really know what that means but I’ll take it.
5. Make sure you get information from people.
Remember your “hit” list? Now’s the time to put it to work. Start engaging people. A great strategy is to play dumb. The more information you can extract from someone, the better.
6. Avoid sensitive topics.
Now, I’m all for a heated political discussion, really, I am. However, now is not the time for that. There’s a caveat, though. If you have someone on your hit list that loves a particularly sensitive topic, bring it up. Prod them and then sit back as they take off. This is a personal tactic of mine. Sometimes I say the opposite of what I know someone believes or likes just so I can see them take off. It’s fun.
7. Don’t talk too much, listen.
Have you ever come away from a conversation with someone thinking how terrible that was, how they talked the whole time and didn’t get you the opportunity to say anything? I guarantee you that that same person came away from that same conversation thinking about how well it went. The more you listen, the more people talk, the more someone talks, the better they feel and the more intel you have. There’s a huge difference between being shy and speaking purposefully, don’t be shy, but don’t be talkative either.
8. Eat light.
I’m all for chowing down, trust me, but this is not the time. This is the time to stay light and nimble.
9. Don’t drink alcohol.
I don’t drink so this isn’t a problem for me. I can go to a party and not even have one drink. If alcohol is a problem for you, then stay away completely. And by problem I mean if you overdo it or if you get tipsy with just one drink, stay away completely. If you think you can handle your alcohol, you probably can’t. No matter what, it’s ALWAYS better to not have any drinks and stay clear headed. If you feel like you need something to hold ask for a Red Bull with cranberry juice or a sparkling water.
10. Help the host move people out.
When it’s time to move it, it’s time to get others to move out. This is your job. Let the host host, you be crowd control.
11. Don’t depart until the host gives you the OK.
It doesn’t matter how long you’ll have to be there. I don’t care if you’re not getting paid for it but feel like you’re working it, you are working it. You stay until your given the OK to leave. I’m not talking about the mandatory polite, “It’s fine, you can go if you want.” I’m talking about the stay until the very end, help clean up a little, and recap the event until 2am type of thing. After that, when the host gives you the thumbs up, then you can leave.