Make the most of office holiday parties with these 12 Tips

However fair or unfair, strategic networking at holiday office parties can be a career boon. Here are 12 tips for doing it right.
Over the years, as a corporate leader, I've hosted many holiday parties.  I learned pretty quickly that many people treat them as nothing more than that - a party.  I also noted that others, those who were more focused on their career, treated them as both a party and an opportunity to enhance their careers.

Those careerists knew how to play the game better than most. But how does one appropriately schmooze without coming off as brown-nosing?  And, how can you aptly parlay friendly party chatter into an opportunity to showcase your talents?

Here are a dozen tips on how to "schmooze" your your holiday office party:

1. Whatever you think about it, keep in mind it is an office party first and foremost. Don't just (grudgingly) attend it and then get out at the earliest chance. Determine an objective for the evening. In advance of it, think through what the best possible outcome would be relative to potential career growth. Think through a few realistic scenarios of how you might work toward achieving your objective.

2. Debrief your guest. As important as it is for you to know who the “important people” are at an event, the same holds true for your guest. The person you have chosen to accompany you to a business function, and how they behave, reflects directly on you – whether positively or negatively.

3. Take the early bird special. Arrive at the event early. Make a point of speaking to and thanking your boss and the host of the party, introduce your guest, and generally spread good tidings. Show your humanity and connect on a different level before things really heat up.

4. Presence pays…literally. Generally speaking, great schmoozers are interesting and entertaining to those around them, and exude self-confidence. It’s imperative to present a comfortable demeanor– however “important” or intimidating the other person may be. Appearing at ease during a time when others are feeling anxious or uncomfortable will make you look more like a “natural leader,” thus making yourself a stand out.

5. Maintain your visibility. The location where you are situated should be highly visible. Stand in a place that is approachable - not behind chairs or the kitchen door where there is high traffic.

6. Maximize first impressions. How you introduce yourself to people, especially superiors, is important. Develop more than one way of introduction, and keep in mind that the secret to a good first meeting is self-confidence, poise and emitting a generally affable air.

7. Due diligence. There’s nothing more awkward than standing face to face with a power player amid uncomfortable silence. Schmooze pro’s always know the right thing to say. Review current news events before the office event so you may participate in – or, even better, start – mainstream conversations about the economy, foreign affairs, and relevant “happenings” around your city. This macro awareness can put you in a whole new light in the eyes of a superior.

8. The great can articulate. Being able to effectively communicate, off the cuff, what you do for an organization, without gloating or over-inflating, is critically important. Long-winded answers with ebbs and flows can render the actual answer lost in translation. When and if appropriate, use the opportunity to self-promote and impart any new ideas you may have in a way that will not be construed as bragging or credit hogging way.

9. Nix the narcissism. Rather than focusing on self-talk, make the other person your focal point. Feed their ego by asking him or her open-ended questions, and be sure to include everyone in the conversation –with both questions and eye contact. When it’s your turn to speak, don’t monopolize the conversation, use jargon or terms that others may not understand – they won’t impress!

10. Calling card critical. Keep business cards with you at all times, which are often forgotten by those attending informal company meetings or social events, and dole out liberally. You want to not only remain top of mind, but also completely accessible, post-event.

11. Grievances need not apply. A social business event is not the time to clear the air about things, or people, that have been bothering you, nor is it a time to speak at another’s expense. Speaking negatively about others will be a greater loss for your image and career.

12. Imbibe and socialize with caution. There is no quicker career killer than public displays of drunkenness at a business function. Don’t embarrass yourself by dancing like a crazy person or like a predator at a club, get caught necking or act aggressive in any way.

Here's to your future!


Executive and Leadership Coach


John M. McKee is the founder and CEO of, an international consulting and coaching practice with subscribers in 43 countries. One of the founding senior executives of DIRECTV, his hands-on experience includes leading billion d...


on any social event, where the main focus is other than dj-ing, i declare any kind of music louder than a certain decent level conversation-inhibitor. and those who hire a dj for such an event intend to hinder people to interact verbally

Computer Dave
Computer Dave

After we get home. Oh wait... I think what you wanted to say was to brief your guest on what to expect (and hopefully not how to behave). But since you probably won't spent every minute standing next to each other it is a fair statement to say debrief your guest AFTER the event - he/she might have picked-up on some tidbit you should know. Like it or not, office politics/gossip is alive and well. Knowing what's going on can help you stay out of the line of fire or give you the inside track on a new project.


Only an out of touch CEO who has no clue what it???s like to be one of the workers would write such a pile of meaningless dribble. Yet another executive that thinks everyone should be an extraverted salesman. Not every position needs that type of person, and I???m not striving to be a clueless executive.


I don't know (or care) why. It could be the layoffs announced last month because of a change in corporate direction. It could be we don't have an HR manager on site at this time. I attended last year's to see what was going on. The hired DJ started in very early in the evening, and it immediately became impossible to have a conversation without yelling. I doubt those interested scored any career points once the noise started. I wouldn't have gone this year anyway. I have good working relationships with all the local management; my direct supervisors and managers are in another facility several hundred miles away and attend a completely different party.


I could never bring myself to do something that disgusting. I'm rather keeping my dilbertistic position at the bottom of the ladder.


Whether you intend it or not, your behaviour effects your career. At a party or not. There is nothing wrong with talking to the big hats. OTOH if you are just talking to them to advance your career... I don't know. Some if not many will see thru that. Sincere interest would be better. JMO. BTW: Our office party is tomorrow and I plan on standing in the back. I won't be seeking out the big hats to discuss the whichness or what with them. But I have nothing against those who do. John McKee's articles are about moving into management or moving up the management ladder. As such this is a good overview of schmoozing.

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