Drink in moderation at office parties.
Imagine that it's your company's annual holiday party. The lighting is soft, the music is loud, and everyone is having a good time. However, a few of your team members are having a little TOO much fun. Their group is the loudest in the room, and they've all had more than a few drinks.
One person on your team is especially drunk – he's walking unsteadily around the room, making rude and inappropriate jokes, and offending almost everyone he comes near. Before tonight, you had been secretly considering him for a promotion. But now, after seeing his behavior, you're thinking about taking him off your list. After all, if he can't handle himself at a holiday party, could he handle the promotion? You think not.
Have you ever watched others behave inappropriately at company functions– or, perhaps, have you ever done something you wish you hadn't?
Business socializing – with your colleagues, clients, or boss – has different rules from socializing with friends and family. Many people, however, treat the two situations in the same way. Not only is this a mistake, but it can lead to negative consequences for your career.
In this article, we review a few of the most common business socializing situations, and offer some tips to help you have a good time with ease and confidence.
Most social situations with clients include a meal. The traditional 'business lunch' is a way to develop relationships, win future contracts, and gain referrals. But it takes strategy and planning for your meeting to be successful.
Make your clients comfortable. It's important for your clients to feel at ease from the beginning, so make sure they know who's paying the bill. If you're the host and you issued the invitation, then you should pay. To avoid confusion, tell your clients up front that they're your guests.
Also, tell the clients what you plan to order before the waiter or waitress returns to the table. Your guests may feel uncomfortable if they order an expensive steak, and you choose only salad and soup.
Spend appropriately. Remember that your boss will probably review how much you spend on the client – and compare it with how much you can reasonably expect to gain from developing the relationship.
For instance, if your clients have a lot of potential business for you, taking them to an expensive restaurant for dinner would be appropriate, because your rate of return could be high. However, if the clients can potentially give you only one or two small contracts, then a moderate lunch might be more suitable.
A general rule is to make sure that the amount you spend on clients is proportional to what you expect to earn from socializing with them.
This has an entirely different set of challenges. After-work socializing with your boss can be a great way to get some one-to-one time in a relaxed environment. On the other hand, it's easy to go from being friendly… to being too friendly. If that's the case, how do you know the difference?
This is where people tend to make their biggest mistakes. Socializing with co-workers is definitely easier than with clients or your boss, so some people aren't cautious enough – and they get a little too noisy or drunk at company events. You may feel more comfortable with your co-workers, but this doesn't mean you can let go of all self-control. You still have to maintain your reputation and keep the respect of others.
Limit your alcohol. Quite simply, don't drink too much. Walking around in an unsteady manner while laughing loudly will definitely get you noticed – but probably not in the positive way you'd like. Think of how unappealing other co-workers are when they're drunk. This should be enough to keep you away from the bar.
Business etiquette experts recommend eating something before you go to an event. You never know how much food will be served, and you don't want to be the only one piling a lot of food onto your plate. And, of course, eating beforehand will help stop that first drink from affecting you as much.
Conferences are a wonderful way to make valuable contacts. This is why being on your best behavior is so vital.
For more tips and techniques on making conversation, see our Book Insight on How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
If you're in charge of planning an event with clients or team members, choose an activity that everyone will enjoy.
For instance, if you love hiking and climbing, that doesn't mean the entire office would be happy to spend a day outdoors. And your passion for classical music doesn't mean that your clients would enjoy the opera.
Choose something you think your clients or co-workers would love – and make sure you don't put people in a situation where they might feel uncomfortable. Select the setting and location with care, and remember your overall goals. If the event is meant to strengthen ties within a department, then arrange an outing that will allow people to get to know one another. If you're attempting to win a key contract from a client, then choose an activity and place that will allow you to talk seriously.
Planning an event can present an entirely new set of challenges. If you'd like more information, see Planning a Workshop: Organizing and Running a Successful Event .
Business socializing has its own set of rules and practices that are far different from socializing with friends and family. It's important to understand that no matter what you're doing, or with whom you're doing it, attending corporate events is still part of your work life. A good rule is not to do anything that you wouldn't do at the office during a regular work day. And use moderation in drinking, eating, and even talking.
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