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Business Party Ettiquette

Updated on April 10, 2017
Stephen Meadows profile image

Stephen is an accomplished networking guru and published author on the subject. If there is one thing he does well, it's network!

A faux pas at a business party can cost you more than your pride. It can cost you your reputation and even future income! It is important to learn when to reign in your party animal persona; but it is equally important not to be a stick in the mud! Here are some simple rules to help ensure you are a good guest at a business function and that you will be invited to the next.

1. Limit Your Intake

This one is pretty obvious. Don’t get slobbering drunk at a business function. Most people lose their filter and tend to say or do embarrassing things. Some people view this as a lack of self-control and even go so far as to ask themselves, “is this the kind of person I want to do business with?” My suggestion is 1-2 drinks for the duration. Conversely, if you choose not to drink, do not make a big show of it. It makes those who are drinking self-conscious. They instantly think you are judging them. Plus you’ll spend the party answering questions on why you are not drinking instead of networking like you should be. At a recent mixer, someone I know ordered a club soda with lime. Everyone assumed he had a cocktail and the question was never raised.

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2. Don’t Overstay Your Welcome

This is more of a subjective topic. Over time, you will learn to gauge how long is long enough to stay at whatever business party you are attending. Your goal should never be to be the first in and last out. Nobody likes a moocher. If you constantly show up to parties, stay the entire time, and eat all the food, you will quickly start to notice the invitations dwindle. Go to the party with an exit strategy in mind. I don’t care if you are going home to sit on the couch for the evening. When you leave that party, it’s because you have somewhere else to be. You want to make your appearances at business parties MEAN something. The host should feel honored you were able to attend, if only for a few minutes.

3. Leave Business at the Door

Yes, I realize this is a business function. However, people are here to unwind; not to talk shop with you! I have a strict rule about business talk: I am NEVER the first one to bring it up. Once someone else opens the door, it’s acceptable to talk shop… but ONLY with that person. You do not want the reputation of being the one that can’t switch off. If you are an outside vendor, this is even MORE important. Most of the parties I attend are filled with real estate agents. I want their business! However, if I constantly cornered them about it at parties, I’d become a pariah. My reputation is fun-loving, jovial, and congenial. In fact, many times I downplay business talk as if it can wait until later. I am there to have a good time and get to know people.

4. Avoid Competitor-sponsored Events

There are times when I am invited to a business function sponsored by a competing company. My general rule of thumb is: DON’T GO! If it is a small mixer sponsored only by my competitor, I see it as a professional courtesy to sit this one out. They are spending their money to build their business. It is beyond rude to show up and steal their thunder. Too bad I am mostly alone when it comes to this line of thinking. If the party is large and has multiple sponsors, it is OK to go. However, make it quick. Be sure to thank your competitor for the invite and say something like, “I can only stay a few minutes, but I at least wanted to stop by.” Make sure people see you talking together. Believe me; it’ll make you look good! After that, make your rounds and head out. Lingering is tacky. The rule I apply here is, “Don’t do to others what you don’t want them to do to you.”

These are just a few of the rules I live by at a business party. I am certain entire books could be written on the subject. As you begin your journey on the corporate party circuit, you will develop your own rules to live by based on experience. If you make a mistake, don’t beat yourself up. View it as an opportunity to learn and sharpen your skills as a networking superstar. We are all human and are bound to screw up at some point. Learn from it and move on!

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    • limobook profile image

      Matthew Chambers 4 months ago from Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Great points!