Business Etiquette for Holiday Parties

Tips for Surviving the Holidays: Part 2

Congratulations! You’ve made it through the Thanksgiving festivities. Now you can apply what you learned about family gatherings in my last article to your upcoming December events.

Your next challenge, should you choose to accept it (do you have a choice?) is the Holiday Party. You may be attending company parties where you work, or on the arm of your significant other, or attending special Open Houses that your friends or business colleagues have planned. How do you prepare for those?


Many holiday gatherings include alcohol, and you may be grateful –- it’s much easier to chat with strangers after a drink or two. Why? It loosens the grip of our social programming –- which also means you are more likely to say something you (or whomever you are representing or accompanying) will regret tomorrow. You know your limit, please don’t push it. Treat yourself to something special when you get safely home.


If this is a sit-down dinner and you have any worries about that, take a course on etiquette at Tagaloo so you feel comfortable and know which fork to use. But if it’s a casual after-work finger food or dessert time, decide what your goal is for the time you are there. If you are there as a business person, with the intent to make connections, don’t fill your hands with a plate of food and a drink. You won’t be able to talk or shake hands, much less exchange cards. Eat something before you arrive so you can begin mingling immediately. Of course, the food was ordered so everyone would come and eat, so if there’s something left when you are ready to leave, have some then.

If you are the guest of someone, you’ll be tempted to eat & drink all night so you don’t have to talk to anyone. You’re off the official hook, but be prepared when your partner turns to you, mid-bite, and says “Let me introduce you to…” and you are expected to have been listening to the conversation and ready to participate at any moment. Less is more.

Name Tags

If name tags are available, use one. Print your first name, clearly in large letters. Under your name you can say Guest of ____. The tag goes at your right shoulder, so they read it as their eye passes up from shaking your hand to looking at your face.

Who Are You?

For any gathering, besides the traffic and weather, the most common conversation starter question is “What do you do?” Think about this so you are prepared to answer intelligently. Especially for business gatherings, having a tag line or short description of what you do is expected. Social gatherings don’t expect a “rehearsed” sounding answer but they don’t expect you to stammer and get confused either. Even if you don’t have a J-O-B, you bring value to the world. Give your title or vocation a fun twist to get the conversation rolling – that’s the point, right? Are you a “Domestic Goddess”? Are you retired and finally showing the world how golf really should be played? If you have a job but don’t want to talk about it, then just give them your preferred information: author of the forthcoming book, “______.” And of course, remember to ask them what they do.

Now What?

In last month’s article, I recommended that you do some research to prepare topics for the Thanksgiving dinner conversation. That’s still a good idea because you’ll be expected to carry on a conversation after the initial introductions. The best part? You get to research and steer the conversation to topic areas that interest you. Since you are talking with strangers, you’ll either discover a kindred spirit (BONUS) or you find you have nothing in common. Then you are both free to go find someone else more interesting to talk with.

Exit Strategy

If you attend the event with another person, before you arrive, discuss what time or under what circumstances the evening will come to an end. You both need to agree, because one of you may be having a good time, while the other is not. You can always stay longer if you both are having a the time of your life.

Last but not least, let me give you permission to end a conversation. Simply extend your hand (the good-bye handshake) and say “Thank you so much, I have enjoyed talking with you. I won’t keep you all to myself any longer. Have a wonderful !” Turn and walk away.

Rinse and Repeat

Now you are ready to chat with strangers during the coming holiday season. Don’t let these events add to your stress – relax and enjoy. And be open to the best gift of all, finding a new friend.

Happy Holidays!

Next month’s topic: Connecting to Improve Your Relationships

Peggy Kimmey Consulting, LLC

Peggy Kimmey
Presentation and Leadership Coach

Peggy Kimmey is the owner of Kimmey Training and Consulting, LLC and is a Presentation and Leadership Coach. She lives in Bristow, Virginia and is a proud member of the Warrenton and Prince William Chambers of Commerce as well as the Speak Up Manassas! Toastmasters Club. She loves to help people Take the “eek” Out of Public Speaking. Peggy can be reached at: