During this holiday season, you may be attending many business and social gatherings; and if so, being a great guest is a sure way to demonstrate your professionalism and express your respect for others.
Here are 9 top tips to help you avoid any missteps:
- R.S.V.P. on an invitation requires action. It stands for the French words respondez s’il vous plait that means “respond, if you please.” Why French? Because in early American history, the manners of the French were considered the highest standard of graciousness. When receiving an invitation with an R.S.V.P. on it, you are obliged to reply as promptly as possible, certainly before the requested response date. Try to reply within 5 days, as a rule of thumb, and please don’t wait to be prompted by a reminder. Your timely response to the invitation is more than a formality. Your hostess is trying to determine how many guests will be attending in order to plan the food and program. Check your calendar and if the date is available, accept the invitation and mark your calendar. Once you have made the commitment to attend, you should put it ahead of any later or a more exciting invitation that may come your way.
- Dress for the occasion. The event and location gives you a clue. However, if you’re unsure, it’s perfectly acceptable to call your host and ask. Select attire that reflects and flatters your age, your position in the company, your industry, the shape of your body and your style personality. And, it’s better to be overdressed than underdressed. Be aware of the image you be projecting. Don’t fall into the trap of using the holidays as an excuse to wear tight, revealing clothing. Be remembered for who you are, not what your wear.
- Be prompt. This is one of your most important responsibilities as a guest. When an invitation specifies a time, arrive at that time. You should not arrive later than 30 minutes after the scheduled start of the party, unless you have spoken with the hostess and s/he has agreed. And, never under any circumstances, arrive a minute early or bring an uninvited guest with you.
- Mix and mingle. A host likes nothing better than a self-sufficient guest—one who makes introductions with other guests and mixes into conversations easily. The more guests engage with one another, the more enjoyable the occasion will be. Don’t sit in the corner and be a wallflower! Introduce yourself to newcomers, and introduce newcomers to your friends. Listen, listen, and listen to what is being said. Ask questions and really care about the answers you receive. Subjects to avoid: your personal life, income, sex, politics and religion…all controversial.
- Toasting. It’s a way to bring a festive air to a gathering, and has a way of bringing together those that are present. A toast is a compliment and acknowledgement of the event and guests. The host should propose the first toast to begin the event—a welcoming toast, keeping it short, simple and sincere. If you are being toasted as a special guest, do not sip. As the honored guest, you will nod your head in thanks of the acknowledgement. Never drink to your own toast; it would be as though you were patting yourself on the back. If you are toasting another guest, you will sip after the toast.
- Drinking. Heavy drinking is out of style. It can undermine your reputation and professionalism in business as well as in social situations. Don’t lose control, instead exercise moderation. If you choose not to drink alcohol, simply order mineral water or a beverage of your choice. Don’t make a “big deal” of it. Request a glass for water, soda, or beer, never drink from the bottle or can, except in the most casual of events.
- Eating. Don’t overload your plate. Remember, a cocktail party is an opportunity to meet new people, make new contacts, and socialize with those you haven’t seen in a while. The purpose is not to have dinner. Never eat directly from the hors d’oeuvres tray or the buffet table. Put your food selection on a plate or napkin before bringing the item to your mouth. If you need to dispose of a toothpick, don’t put a used one back on the platter. Look for a container in which to dispose. Or, put your toothpicks in your cocktail napkin and leave in a wastebasket…not in the plant, flower vase, handbag or other inappropriate places.
- Know when to leave. If an end time is indicated on the invitation, plan to leave then, and certainly no more than 15 minutes after the published time. A few clues to watch for are the closing of the bar, the disappearance of the service staff, and turning off the music. If you must leave early, be discreet and exit quietly without disrupting the other guests or calling attention to your departure.
- A thank you. Whether social or business related, a thank you note acknowledges the host and the good time you shared at their event. Your host put a lot of time and energy into preparing and will appreciate your acknowledgement and thanks for their efforts. When a party is a social one, a thank you note should be written to your host and his or her spouse and sent to their home. Social thank you notes are handwritten on personal stationery. Business-occasion thank you notes vary depending on the situation. However, a written thank you is always appropriate. Sometimes a phone call or email is acceptable.
Now you’re all set to enjoy the holiday party season. Have lots of fun! Happy Holidays to You and Yours!