Do you dread your annual office holiday party? If the answer is yes, you are not alone. Sixty-two percent of Americans say they would rather go to the dentist than attend an office holiday party. (Okay, I made that up, but it’s believable, isn’t it?)

Anyway, you don’t have to suffer. In fact, following a few simple tips can turn even the most tortuous event into a networking bonanza – and you might even have a bit of fun too. Dare to dream!

1. Have a Plan.

You won’t (thankfully) have time to talk with everyone, so choose in advance two or three people with whom you want to connect – the office manager of your firm’s New York office, perhaps? Maybe the new hire in the IT department? This will give the event some focus so it won’t feel like you are aimlessly wandering around the room holding a cup of warm eggnog.

2. Prepare.

Have a few current and positive conversation topics handy. It is no surprise that politics, sexuality, money and office gossip should not be on your list. However, did you know that any topic that you are wildly passionate about should also be on your no fly list. Why? You may not be able to resist dominating the conversation – a networking no-no.

3. Make an Entrance.

Resist the temptation to rush to the bar or the folks you know. Pause and look around the room when you arrive. Give yourself a moment to take in the setting and to see who is there – it will boost your confidence. And it will give others time to notice you. Remember, you aren’t the only one in the room hoping to connect with someone.

4. Join the Conversation.

Look for people who seem engaged in polite and event appropriate interaction. Make eye contact, smile and wait for a natural break in the conversation for introductions. Be sure to shake hands, give your first and last name and say something relevant about yourself. “I’m Jenny Jones. I’m the VP of Marketing in our Dallas office.” Once you’re in, don’t change the subject or refocus the conversation to yourself.

5. End on a Positive Note.

Unless some once-in-a-lifetime networking synergy is happening, don’t spend more than 10 minutes participating in a conversation. Exit the same way you entered – with a smile, eye contact and a handshake. Exchange business cards if appropriate. Be sincere: “It’s been a pleasure speaking with you. I am going to do a little more mingling.” If you are leaving an individual, don’t worry about hurting his feelings – you are networking, you are not on a date.


By Stayce Wagner, Spencer Crane Etiquette, LLC/All rights reserved