With the prevalence of open houses, promotional affairs, and
other after-hours events being held by numerous organizations, it is
important that we, as business professionals, be aware of the special images
we should project for these special occasions.
Don’t kid yourself, the emphasis is on business
even if the clock says it’s after regular working hours. That doesn’t
mean you can’t have a good time, of course, but it does mean you
have to make certain that your attire and demeanor are professional.
The same goes for anyone who accompanies you.
If you are invited to a function that starts between
5 and 6 p.m., then the presumption is that you will come by from the
office. Thus, your regular business clothes are appropriate.
Certainly, you might want to freshen up a little bit–men might take
the time to shave, women reapply their makeup. A fresh shirt or blouse
could be in order, but these occasions are pretty much an extension of
your business day and for ladies, a too dressy "cocktail party
look" would be overdoing it.
When an event begins after 6 p.m., even if no
particular attire is specified, it is probably safe to assume that a
little dressier look is in order. For both men and women, it is
perfectly acceptable to take your regular business attire and simply
dress it up a little bit. For men, this could mean a different tie;
for women, a dressier top. However, be sure to keep your selection on
the conservative side unless you want to be the topic of conversation
for the next six months or more. And ladies, save your sex goddess
look for another occasion. Think of looking elegant and tasteful
rather than sexy.
Attire, of course, is a major factor to consider
when attending a business "social" event. Here are a few
other "dos" for appropriate behavior.
Do keep your body language on the conservative
side. Women should not walk or carry themselves in a seductive
manner. They should not drape themselves over a man–whether he
is an escort, husband or co-worker. By the same token, men must be
aware of inappropriate touching–arms around the waist or
shoulder. Sexual or paternal behavior is inappropriate and
Do watch the drinking–yours and your companion’s.
People never forget a lapse in this area. Food or drink should not
be considered the main event at an after-hours function. Limit
yourself to one or two drinks, and don’t expect the food to
substitute for dinner. It is hard to imagine anything less
gracious than a person devouring plates full of hors d’oeuvres.
Cocktail food is usually finger food, and a
paper napkin or plate is generally provided. When using only a
napkin, be careful when you are maneuvering through a crowd with
it. Also, cocktail food is deliberately heavy in oil, to slow down
the absorption of alcoholic beverages. It is, as a result, rather
messy to eat. So, be careful and mindful of your face and hands.
If smoking is acceptable, do use an ashtray to
flick your ashes. Don’t drop them in plants or on the floor.
Also, be aware of the direction your smoke is drifting. In any
case, always ask the individuals in your presence if they mind you
smoking; then, abide by their expressed wishes.
When being introduced or introducing yourself,
do shake hands. Handshakes are your first way of connecting with a
person. Remember, however, that a limp, moist handshake or a bone
crusher can slam the door on an enthusiastic response. When you
shake hands, people make an immediate judgment about your
character and level of confidence. So a firm, quick grasp
handshake is in order.
Whether it is proof of registration at an event
or simply identification for you and your company, the name tag
has become a frequent element of professional business attire. Do
wear your name tag on the upper right hand portion of your
garment. Why? Because when you shake someone’s hand, their line
of vision travels from your eyes, down your right shoulder to your
extended hand. It is far easier to read your name tag when it is
in the line of vision.
In your career, you will find yourself in many
business "social" event situations where you will be called
upon to demonstrate your professional polish. Knowing the basics will
allow you to avoid awkwardness and embarrassment in these settings and
to be self-confident no matter what you encounter. In the competitive
environment of the 21st Century, "polish pays."