If you think the holiday office party is the perfect opportunity to eat, drink, and be jolly, you may want to think again. Overindulging on the holiday jingle juice and trying to kiss a colleague under the mistletoe are obvious disasters to avoid, but there are other important details that can affect your professional image.

When you get ready to head out to your next office party, keep these things in mind.

  • Prepare in advance. Putting thought into your attire and arriving on time aren't the only details to attend to before the holiday fête. Plan a few conversation topics that are lighthearted and engaging, such as asking a client about his or her favorite holiday tradition or where they plan to spend the holiday this year.
  • Don't bring a "plus one." Unless the invitation specifically states that he or she is invited, leave your new boyfriend or girlfriend at home. It is bad form to call and ask if they may attend, or to just assume no one will notice.
  • Make a proper introduction. If the company party is one of the few occasions you see the CEO during the year, take advantage of the opportunity and make your presence known. By giving a proper introduction, which includes a firm handshake, eye contact, and a clear delivery of your first and last name, you are setting yourself apart. Being the first to extend your hand for a professional handshake shows a confidence that is not easily overlooked.
  • Work the room. When you arrive, make sure to greet your host and proceed to mix and mingle with other guests. Make a point to strike up conversations with people you don't already know, or don't see on a regular basis. A good guest understands their primary role is to make the host glad he or she invited you.
  • Watch your liquor consumption. Conversing with superiors or making a positive impression on a client means you have to be totally alert and quick on your feet. Use restraint and your best judgment by limiting yourself to one or two drinks, even if your colleagues are taking holiday shots in the back of the room.
  • Make sure to thank those who coordinated the party. Acknowledge the efforts of those who planned and put together the holiday office party. This simple gesture is a way to set yourself apart from the colleagues who disappeared out the emergency exit 30 minutes after the party started.
  • Smile, you are on display. On the eve of the event, put on your best suit, your brightest smile, and bring some holiday cheer to the party. Jump in and offer to help if you see the host struggling to keep the drinks stocked or the appetizers moving along. Make it a point to be a team player and leave a lasting impression. People remember common courtesy.

By following these tips, you'll be sure to have a lot of fun at your company's holiday office party while staying out of trouble. When in doubt, always think twice and remember, it's not worth jeopardizing your career or professional image over. The bottom line: Have fun--but be smart.

Published on: Dec 4, 2014