Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tips for Navigating a Formal Business Professional Christmas Party

Tips for Navigating a Formal Business Professional Christmas Party

  1. Eat before you go! If you have a healthy to semi-healthy meal BEFORE you get to the party, it helps keep from hitting the dessert table too hard. I speak from experience as an individual with a mega sweet tooth.
  2. Drink lots of water! If you are drinking alcohol, keep it to a minimum - getting drunk in front of your coworkers and bosses is seldom a sound plan for your professional life. If you are drinking, the water will help flush your system. If you aren’t drinking, the water will still help flush your system.
  3. Strategize! I mean this! Sketch out an idea of how you’re getting to the party and where it is - fashionably late is one thing, lost is another. If you’re not driving yourself, make sure you have a safe way to get home.Have an idea of who you’d like to say hi to and what topics to discuss or avoid with them. Hell, if possible know where to leave your coat and where the restroom is located! Planning like a obsessive compulsive person sounds borderline crazy, but looking serenely unfazed and prepared for anything is something to aspire to.
  4. Boy scout it up AKA be prepared! Don’t rely on someone else for what you need. It can be hard to fit everything you need into an evening bag, but make the attempt. Depending on the size of your bag I usually suggest packing:
  • Phone
  • Lip (gloss/stick/balm)
  • Concealer
  • Keys
  • Blotting Papers
  • Travel size perfume
  • Breathe freshener - mints/mini toothbrush/etc - no gum! Chewing gum at party looks tacky
  • Money - this means at least $15 in cash. You may have to tip the valet, buy yourself a drink, get a taxi or any other minor emergency that requires actually cash.
  • I.D.
  • Some kind of wrap/dress sweater. This doesn’t go in your bag, but it is helpful! If it’s cold outside, if you’re showing too much off or if you’re under/overdressed, throwing something on can help dress up or tone down an outfit.
  1. Follow the dress code! This means wearing a cocktail dress to a cocktail party and black-tie dress to a black tie event. Showing up under or overdressed is brutal! If you aren’t certain of the level of formality, here are some tips:

  • If you know someone else who is attending, see what they plan to wear.
  • Check the invite to see if it states what attire is expected
  • If possible, contact the Host/Hostess to find out
  • If it says black-tie the rule of thumb is tea length (below the knee/above the ankle) to floor length for dresses and skirts. For a cocktail party, above the knee is acceptable. White-tie requires a formal, floor length ballgown.

  1. Be a lady! This may be ‘old-fashioned’ or ‘lame’ but quite frankly I don’t give a f*. See? Still keeping it classy. There is a time and place to let your freak flag fly, be a rebel or any other party animal cliche, but a formal work function isn’t that place. Crash course rules for being a lady:
  • Please and thank you. No excuses, no exceptions.
  • Vulgarity is frowned upon, but being able to handle yourself with the ‘boys’ is not - it’s the ability to hang with the men and be respected, without being treated like ‘one of the guys’ or a ‘slut’.
  • Heels are three inches or under - I don’t care how short you are or if you feel naked without five inch heels; if you care that much you’re in the wrong profession. Time and a place people.
  • Be gracious to everyone. Remember you aren’t better than anyone else. However, NO ONE IS BETTER THAN YOU. WE ARE ALL EQUAL - sounds like a PSA but if you act like a decent human being, you’d be surprised how far you’ll get.
  • DO NOT show off every asset you have. You don’t have to dress like you’re in a muumuu, but keep it classy.
  • Glitter should be kept to a MINIMUM.
  • Nails should be manicured. This doesn’t mean you have to paint your nails, if that’s not your thing go ahead and skip it, but they must be clean and maintained. PEOPLE ARE JUDGING YOU - it’s petty and un-PC, but it’s true. Every little thing is going to be noticed and evaluated by someone. If that sounds daunting, well it is, but you have the power to control the perception. Use it wisely.
  1. Be Comfortable - No matter how good you look, if you feel uncomfortable in any way it will show. If your outfit doesn’t fit correctly and you spend all night awkwardly tugging it into place you won’t make a favorably powerful impression - you’ll look like you don’t know how to dress. Even if it fits perfectly, if you don’t feel beautiful in it, you won’t look your best because you feel feel stunning. Make sure your footwear is comfortable enough to walk in, dance in and stand in - being confident enough to kick your shoes off and hit the dance floor is great...when it’s not a formal event filled with business professionals.
  2. Do a test run! Not only plan out your outfit ahead of time to make sure it fits and you have everything - a last minute shopping trip to buy hosiery is avoidable - but try out the makeup look and hairstyle you want to wear for your event. I can’t tell you how many times I was sure I had stockings without runs and the exact makeup look I wanted to wear planned out, to then realize the stockings had holes everywhere and the makeup looked awful with the dress.
  3. Be Unique! - Give the people you meet something to remember you by, and letting a little bit of your personality show through can really help. For example, when I’m dressing for an event, my habit is to keep my makeup relatively low key, curly hair of some sort, and incorporate some vintage into my look. It’s a fun talking piece and it helps me stand out. If retro isn’t your thing, it could be a signature color or that you only wear flats. Again, our wardrobe is part of how we express ourselves (shallow though it may seem) and helps people identify who we are - literally. Think of it like adding a keyword to a search term, if you always wear red, seeing you in a red dress will help them remember that you’re Laura from accounting - the one who always wears red.
  4. Be a team player! If you have a date for the party, here are some things to remember:
  • If it is your work party, invite someone who will blend well with the group or be prepared - i.e. if you bring a vegan pacifist to an NRA “bring your own meat” dinner you may run into some issues.
  • If you are the plus one; don’t upstage your date! Help them look good by being supportive and gracious.
  • You don’t have to matchy-matchy with your date, but try to be on the same level of attire. It’s going to look strange if one of you is in jeans and the other one is in formal wear. I recommend planning ahead of time and in conjunction. I’ve been known to text photos of my outfit to my date - I’m obsessive, but it works.  
  • PDA is not professional - I know you know this.

  1. Remember who these people are! Parties are fun, and I’m sure your coworkers are great people, but no matter how close you are, your coworkers are not your friends. I’m sorry, you can be friendly, but at the end of the day you’re all paid to be there. Bear that in mind at all times. Workplace relationships can go wrong VERY quickly - that person you just told all your dirty little workplace secrets to may someday be going up against for the same job position or *gasp horror* become your boss - you REALLY don’t want them to know all your dirty laundry then, do you?

I hope these tips and suggestions help make your next work event a little bit less daunting! I’ve been to my fair share (hence why I wrote this!) and I know how overwhelming and stressful it can be.

And remember, all rules can be broken or bent, but make sure it's a conscious choice and consider the potential ramifications.

If you have any questions, leave a comment and I’ll try to help!

Have fun at your event and Happy Holidays!!!

Leave YOUR tips and suggestions in the comments! I’m always learning too :)



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