Building RelationshipsMarch 1, 2017

How to Shine and Make Connections at Social Business Events By
March 1, 2017

Building Relationships

How to Shine and Make Connections at Social Business Events

Petersen,Gloria-GlobalProtocol-110x140Gloria Petersen, CPP, is the founder and president of Global Protocol Inc. Gloria is an author, trainer and speaker on Professional Presence, Business Etiquette and Protocol. She is a graduate of the Protocol School of Washington and has received numerous certifications. Her four-book series, The Art of Professional Connections and SME training modules represent her 30-year legacy. Learn more at or email her at

Do you find yourself in an awkward or uncomfortable situation when asked to attend a business holiday party, celebration banquet or networking event? Or, do you see these events as an opportunity to party and let your hair down — so to speak! In either case, always be mindful of maintaining your reputation, and the reputation of the company or organization that you represent. Let’s start by identifying the purpose and then defining the appropriate behavior to assure a successful experience.

Meetings, conferences and other business-related social activities are extensions of your business day. They are a necessary part of any organization’s growth and should be treated with the same level of professionalism. They are as much about building relationships as they are about content and should not be misused. Keeping this in mind, remember that you are always being observed; you should maintain a professional demeanor at all social functions.

How to Shine at Events

The event soirée offers a wonderful opportunity to meet people outside the usual business environment in a fun and festive way. They bring everyone together and allow different facets of one’s personality to shine. Sometimes these get-togethers allow you to reconnect with colleagues that you know but have not seen in a while, or with whom you have only shared e-mail or text dialogues. The delicate task of navigating the half-social, half-professional occasion offers an ideal opportunity to make connections that help your career. It also is a chance to show that you are a well-rounded person with interests other than work.

A badly executed party, however, risks alienating employees, tarnishing the company’s reputation and worse yet — costing someone his or her job. Therefore, planning should include behavioral guidelines that are shared with employees. Realize that the responsibilities for the meeting planner and the event attendee are going to vary.

Meeting planners should make it clear from the beginning to everyone involved that they are there to stage a meeting or event. They are working, providing their services to the client (both external and internal customers and/or stakeholders). As a rule, they will not be partaking in the partying going on around them. However, there may be a time where you need to “get this party started” by being an active participant. If you join in and socialize, stay in control and set the best example, always!

Companies hosting events should be sure to prepare their staff (especially new hires) by making sure everyone has a good understanding of the company’s goals, leadership and event purpose. Also, include a segment on preparing their spouse, date or partner. Their behavior and comfort level are important to a successful experience.

Attendees need to carefully plan their activities and be mindful of their behavior at all times. Socializing (or partying) is a great way to create new bonds and expand networks.

These 11 tips will protect reputations for all involved.

  • Dress with good taste — always! Attire should complement all aspects of the event. Evening socials might be a fun time to wear your more glamorous clothing or to display the more creative (fun) side of your personality; however, if what you are wearing is too revealing, you risk making others uncomfortable, being captured for others to share on social media (an embarrassment), or being viewed in a less professional manner when you return to your office.
  • Your spouse or date is your date! Do not cross the relationship line by turning an event party into a controversial reality show or dating game. This is especially true for singles. Wives and husbands are present. Be respectful. Furthermore, what is a normal showing of affection to you may be offensive to others. (Be conservative about how and where you show affection.)
  • Protect your reputation. Your behavior can demonstrate the social skills that will get you promoted or brand you as the social horror story. Worse yet, a poor display of behavior could end up on YouTube or be the topic of discussion in the company lounge.
  • Mingle and socialize. This is your opportunity to meet a wide range of colleagues, vendors and prospects. This is how referrals happen and new doors open. Everyone knows someone, and that is the foundation of all referrals. People like to refer people whom they know and like.
  • Upon arrival, mingle. Do not cluster with the same group of people. You already know each other. Instead, be a people connector and make sure everyone is having fun! By taking the initiative and making sure that everyone is interacting, you will demonstrate impressive leadership skills and social prowess.
  • Keep the conversation positive and confidential. Avoid controversial topics. Derail a topic (or joke) if it is heading in a damaging or uncomfortable direction. Also, avoid the temptation to disclose confidential information, which is easy to do if your gossip side surfaces and/or you have had too much alcohol. The competition (or the media) could be present in the person of a husband, wife or friend of a guest. Make sure that your conversations are lighthearted and your topics neutral.
  • Be discreet with your technology. Make the people around you your priority; not your cellphone. If you must make or receive a call or text, do so privately. Turn off your cell phone to avoid rude temptations. And, if you plan on taking and posting photos, be sure you have permissions.
  • Be selective with your hors d’oeuvres choices. Select items that make it easy for you to mingle and greet with a handshake. The food you select should be determined by how you are going to eat and work the room. Will you be walking around, standing at a high-top, or sitting at a cocktail table? For example, if you are walking around select only finger food — morsels that can be eaten in one or two bites. If you are standing at a high-top or at a cocktail table, you can select foods that are more challenging (e.g. vegetable dip).
  • Pool parties. Hotel pools provide a refreshing way to close out the day after intense meetings. Not everyone will want to swim or don swimwear. If you choose to enjoy the pool, keep your pool attire selection in good taste. When out of the water, be sure to wear a beach wrap. Furthermore, be careful about splashing water. Chlorinated pool water can damage poolside electronics.
  • Drink alcohol responsibly. It can take more than an hour for your body to process one alcoholic beverage. Always drink alcoholic beverages in moderation. To control your body’s alcohol intake, drink a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage — and eat food (never drink on an empty stomach). Stay in control of YOU. If you notice a colleague has had too much alcohol, get assistance in helping get this individual to another area or back to his or her hotel room or to a taxi.
  • Enjoy the music and dance the night away! Music and dance are popular ways to close an event. Respect everyone’s dance space and dance partner. Again, it is best to err on the conservative side regarding displaying you and your partner’s dance moves.

Remember — It’s Your Reputation

It’s your reputation and the reputation of the company you represent. A good reputation takes years to build. However, it only takes one negative incident — especially at a social business event — to destroy a professional’s stature in the business community with clients and with peers. Professionalism is paramount. I&FMM

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