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This week is all about how to navigate an office party. Whether you're headed to your annual holiday bash or accompanying someone as their guest, here are some practical tips to make networking a breeze.
It can be daunting to walk into a room of people you don't know, so look for groups of three or more (you run less of a risk of interrupting a private discussion). Once you've spotted your target, simply walk up to the group, extend your hand to the closest person and introduce yourself. It doesn't have to be fancy and it works like a charm.
"Hi, I'm Anastasia. I don't think we've met yet. I work in [insert department here]."
"Hi, I'm Anastasia. I'm Alex's friend/spouse/partner."
The key to stress-free mingling is to facilitate conversation. If you see someone standing alone or trying to enter your conversation, introduce yourself. Let the person know what you were just discussing so that they can join the conversation.
"Hi Sarah, it's nice to meet you. We were just talking about blah blah blah."
Finally, if a conversation has run its course, move on. This can be as simple as, "It's been so nice chatting. I'm going to go say hello to so and so" or "I'm so glad we got to catch up. I'm going to grab something to eat and refresh my drink." It's better to move on gracefully than to scrounge for conversation after you've run out of things to say.
Terrible with Names?
I am truly terrible at remembering names. Like offensively, introduce-yourself-several-times-before-I-remember bad. The awkwardness of realizing mid-introduction that you've forgotten someone's name is like to stepping on an emotional lego.
To avoid the whole debacle, get in the habit of repeating someone's name after they introduce themselves. Saying someone's name out loud makes it harder to forget.
"Hi, I'm Greg." ...
"Hi Greg, I'm Anastasia. Nice to meet you."
If you are at a holiday party where people are distributing business cards, write a little reminder to yourself on the back of their card when you get home ("Blue Jays fan" or "taxidermy enthusiast"). That way, if you forget their name, you can look through the cards and identify the right person.
When in doubt, it's better to ask someone's name sooner rather than later. Toss in an "I'm sorry, I didn't catch your name" before it gets too awkward to ask.
Beware of the Bubbly
Alcohol consumption is deeply engrained in many office cultures. In the land of high rises, high balls, open bars and open tabs, the holiday party is king. Simply put, you need to watch your alcohol intake.
It's all too easy to have too much to drink at a work party. You don't want to be the person who goes one martini over the edge (especially if you're the new kid on the block). While I'm certainly not suggesting a return to prohibition, it's a good idea to keep your alcohol consumption in check. Take a cue from the other guests - some office parties are wilder than others.
That said, staying in control is easier said than done. If you're a bit of a lightweight or in for a long night, pace yourself with a lighter mixed drink like a wine spritzer or vodka tonic. Switch between alcohol and water throughout the night, especially if you start to feel buzzed. You can always have another drink later, but you can't have one less.
If you feel pressured to drink (an unfortunate but often true part of work parties), ask the bartender for soda water with lemon in a highball glass. No one will know that you aren't drinking and you'll have something to sip.
Finally, try not to drink on an empty stomach. Make the most of the buffet, eat before you go or scrounge up that emergency granola bar from the bottom of your purse (the one that likes to break free of its wrapper and crumble all over the bottom of your bag).
Bringing a Date
If you're interested in bringing a date to a holiday party, do a little recon to make sure that it's +1-friendly. Some companies limit their holiday parties to staff only, whereas others encourage you to bring someone.
When you arrive at the party, introduce your guest to your colleagues. If you know something that the two parties have in common, point it out ("Kevin also loves sci-fi" or "Anna runs marathons too"). It'll get conversation flowing and help put your guest at ease.
On that note, remember not to abandon your date - literally or figuratively. Check in with them throughout the party and try not to leave them to fend for themselves for too long. This principle applies to conversation as well. Your date might not have the benefit of knowing the biz as well as everyone else, so make sure to draw them into the conversation.
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Time to head out and conquer your holiday party! Let me know your best networking tips in the comments below and don't forget to click the "like" button and subscribe if you enjoyed this post. Happy holidays #bossyones!
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