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12 Mistakes to Avoid When Doing the Party Circuit

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Related: The 8 Questions You’ll Get at Holiday Parties This Year

You may or may not be attending a New Year’s Eve party. Ditto the New Year’s Day brunch. You may or may not be attending kickoff meetings or conferences organized by your firm.

Let’s be optimistic, expecting life to get even closer to normal in 2022. Although this isn’t your first rodeo, we all make mistakes.

Here are 12 to avoid.

1. Arriving late, leaving early.

To you, the implied message is: “I’m a busy person in great demand.” Other people consider it rude. You’ve attended a dinner when the last guest arrived after the first-course dishes were being cleared away. Often their excuse is lame, such as “the traffic was terrible.”

Instead: For drinks parties, arrive on time or at most, 15 minutes later. For dinner parties, arrive exactly at the specified time. Your host is often relying on their guests to get the conversation rolling while they are greeting new arrivals.

2. Arriving empty-handed.

If you are going to someone’s home during the holidays (or afterward), it’s considered polite to bring a small gift or house present. Not doing so often gets noticed by the host and other guests.

Instead: Keep a present closet at home with suitable items you’ve found on sale during the year. An alternative is to bring wine, flowers or chocolates. Attach a card, so they know you brought it.

3. Staging a brief encounter.

It’s an in-and-out visit. You come through the door, shake a few hands, stay for about 15 minutes and slip out. Yes, you “attended the event” because you showed up, but it wasn’t a priority for you. It implies you would rather be someplace else.

Instead: Plan to stay longer, even if this means arriving earlier. Let your host know you have other commitments, yet didn’t want to miss their party. Perhaps you set a silent alarm on your smartphone to vibrate when you need to head out. Don’t check your watch.

4. Not seeking out your host.

Someone has gone to considerable expense to put the event together. If they did the cooking, their time was involved. When you go to the gym, you arrive, work out and leave. When you do the same at a function, you are implying you consider your host’s home a public space.

Instead: Show them respect by greeting them upon arrival and thanking them for inviting you.

5. Assuming you’re the star.

Many people love talking about themselves. Some people project the message: “You are so fortunate to have met me.” They exhibit self-importance regarding an initial conversation, like a game of cards where you are constantly turning over a card, hoping to top what the other person is showing. You talk about your car, your big house and your lavish vacations.

Instead: These conversations make the other person uneasy or on the defensive. It’s better to downplay yourself,. taking an interest in the other person. They can always draw you out later in the conversation. 

6. Looking over someone’s shoulder.

Try to make eye contact when talking with people. It lets them know they are the center of your attention at that moment. When you look over their shoulder, it implies you are trying to see if someone more important came into the room.

Instead: Try to look into their eyes as much as possible. If this is uncomfortable, looking at their nose works almost as well. 

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7. Focusing on the food.

You missed lunch. You associate the buffet with free food. You stand at the food table, shoveling it in. Other guests wonder if you get fed at home.

Instead: Consider your primary task to circulate, working the room and meeting people. Snack on the passed appetizers.

8. Drinking too much.

This is worse than standing by the food table. Avoid slurring your words or talking too loud. Some people equate drinking too much with having bad judgment in business.

Instead: Alternate drinks with a glass of water. This should slow down your alcohol consumption. 

9. Confusing networking with dating.

Networking sounds like something you do at the chamber of commerce. Isn’t this a party? It’s good to keep the same business demeanor, especially if there is a significant age difference between you and others in the room.

Instead: Play a game with yourself. “This person could be the most interesting person in the room if she gets talking about what’s most important to them.” How can you make that happen?

10. Succumbing to the perils of “Always Be Closing.”

 This is a key lesson everyone in sales needs to learn, but you are at a party. Try not to steer the conversation around to business, specifically yours. If you push too hard, alarms go off.

Instead: Since “What do you do” is a standard icebreaker, draw them out instead.

11. Not saying goodbye to your host.

No, I’m not saying this because people have short memories. It’s polite to interact with your host on arrival and departure. This also alerts them that you have left, in case someone asks about you.

Instead: Hosts need positive feedback. Tell them you had a good time. It puts them at ease.

12. Not sending a thank-you note.

You might make the case that a text, phone call or email works just as well. Unfortunately, some people do none of the above.

Instead: A handwritten thank-you note has staying power. People often hang on to them. Hosts often keep score who sent them and who didn’t.

You’ve attended lots of parties. You would never make these mistakes. Sometimes a reminder is useful.

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Bryce Sanders is president of Perceptive Business Solutions Inc. He provides HNW client acquisition training for the financial services industry. His book, “Captivating the Wealthy Investor,” is available on Amazon.