“Whether it is office parties, neighborhood open houses, country club dances or professional organizational luncheons and dinners, keep the conversation about the event, the holidays and the other person,” Bjorseth said. “It’s even more unforgiveable to focus on yourself at social affairs than at business events.”
She advises that you also look and act professional because others are still deciding 10 things about you within 10 seconds of seeing you. Furthermore, they will carry that impression with them into the boardroom or onto the telephone when they again speak with you or about you.
“Don’t overfill your “little” plate. Snacking ahead of time can curb your appetite. Keep cold drinks out of your right hand (the one you use to shake hands!). Ice and condensation will likely make it feel cold and moist. Holding the drink in your left hand is a far better solution than wrapping a napkin around the glass. If seating is available, sit down for a few minutes to eat. When you rise again, sans foods, your hands will be free. And don’t forget to wash them before you start shaking again,” Bjorseth says.
Her other professional advice includes:
* Don’t tell off-color jokes or use crude language just because the atmosphere is more relaxed. Such behavior offends many people, including coworkers, their spouses, partners and families who can carry a lot of weight.
* Dress properly for the occasion. Find out ahead of time the appropriate dress for men and women. And, women, don’t show excessive cleavage if you want to be taken seriously in the office or want to use the event to lay the groundwork for future employment.
* Remember the behavioral basics. Exhibit good posture. Give a firm handshake. Maintain eye contact at least 85 percent of the time. Keep your gestures understated, especially in a crowded room where expansive gestures can lead to touching someone else or even spilling your food or beverage … or theirs!
Additionally, Bjorseth suggests you don’t make the head honcho your only target or feel as if you need your token minutes or two with him/her. Have longer and more meaningful conversations with those who are lower on the totem pole and aren’t besieged by everyone else. Top brass seldom gets involved in the day-to-day hiring, promotions and other managerial duties. Make a positive impression on everyone you meet so you will be memorable long after the event is over.
“Carry your business cards," Bjorseth says. “Women, keep at least a small supply in your holiday bag. If attending with a male partner, have him keep some extras in his inside suit pocket. It’s so much more professional than writing your vital information on a cocktail napkin. Hand them out only if asked.”
Bjorseth shares three final suggestions:
• Don’t press people on the spot. If you want more information, a referral or an appointment, get the person’s business card and ask if you may email or call him/her later. Networking is planting seeds. A holiday event is not the place to sell. Follow up during normal business hours.
• Don’t be the last to leave. Unless you are close personal friends with the hosts, don’t be the last to leave the neighborhood open house. Similarly, unless you have volunteered for clean-up duty, don’t be the straggler at company or organizational functions. It’s like pushing back from the table when you are still hungry: leave while you’re still making a positive impression.
• Send holiday cards. Bypass the pre-printed, sterile ones. Take the time to sign your name and write a short personal note. As appropriate, send to your clients, prospective employers and, particularly, to those people at any level who are vital links in your networking chain.
Lillian D. Bjorseth
Duoforce Enterprises, Inc.
2221 Ridgewood Rd.
Lisle, IL 60532