The stories that come out of office holiday Christmas parties can be horrifying. We’ve heard the tale of the middle age drunk woman who dove off a karaoke machine, leaving several colleagues with cuts and bruises. The wasted IT guy who monopolizes the dance floor with the worm, the blow jobs on the photo copier (press enlarge for fun), the mail room fart competitions, pillow fights at the York Event Theatre and the worst: crying with half your nipple exposed to the CFO. DON’T GO THERE!
Thankfully, ex-Merrill Lynch stockbroker turned world renowned communications consultant, Mark Jeffries, took 30 minutes from his hectic schedule of co-hosting parties with Kelly Ripa (woo Kelly!) and critiquing Tony Blair’s speeches to sit and discuss holiday party dos and don’ts.
ATTENDING YOUR FIRST OFFICE PARTY
For many, the first office party is an opportunity to rise from one’s cubicle and really show your true colours, be it your cleavage, provocative sex life or crass opinions towards the department VP. Let us remind you that relaying the story of that wet t-shirt competition you partook in down south or trying to one up the marketing boys with your ‘impressive’ consumption of jager shots, is not necessarily going to win you points.
– Keep it low key
– Appear to enjoy yourself but actually know that you are playing a game; building your internal work network
– Act professional but be able to draw on social topics, ‘What are your plans for the holidays?’, “Have you been keeping up with Dancing With The Stars?’
– Get into a heated debate about politics with slurring booze breath, if you want to talk about politics only refer to ‘Yes We Can!’ Heck, start up a ‘yes we can’ conga line!
– If there is a lull in the conversation, do not revert to discussing accounting protocol and how much you hate it, this is a HUGE downer.
– Discuss your sex life
WHAT TO WEAR?
While some companies are modest and host after work cocktail hour in the atrium (i.e. CBC ooh see Peter Mansbridge gift ideas here ) others go all out with chocolate fountains and roast beef. Just because things get turned up a notch does not mean you arrive in a ball gown. It’s happened. Also a common flaw – tits out.
SEX IT DOWN, DIFFERENTIATE & ‘LUCKY CLOTHES’
– Jeffries lays down the law: “There’s a temptation to be super sexy, ‘you will look fabulous,’ but sexy is not the image you want to portray at work. The work party is all about deciding how you want to be perceived by your colleagues and your bosses. You must select an appropriate outfit and within that outfit you must have a couple things that will stand out. It’s important to differentiate yourself, and how you act. Only by differentiating yourself can you make yourself more memorable, and that’s one of the objectives of this game.” (but memorable in a ‘wow, cool necklace’ kind of way, versus ‘did you see her ass? WOW!?’)
– Don’t strike out, go lucky! Jeffries explains “People do not admit to having lucky clothes, but they do. These are items that you save up for special occasions like Christmas parties, big job interviews or first dates. These clothes are not actually lucky, but just happen to look really good on you because when you wear them you exude confidence without realizing it. When you exude confidence, people want to be associated with you much more.” What’s your lucky item?
HOSTESS WITH THE MOSTESS – Don’t be too ambitious and stay sharp!
– Encourage people to bring drink and food so you are not responsible for laying out this entire spectacle. People bring things so that they are the ones creating the party for you.
– Manage expectations – “Say the party is only two hours long, even though it could roll on to 3.5 hours. What you don’t want to do is say its over at midnight and then you look at your watch and think ‘I’m so bored and these people won’t leave.’ If it’s fantastic you can keep it going but if it isn’t you can say ‘Well, I did say nine, everybody!’ And then you kick them all out.” His tip, not ours!
– “I’m always overly impressed with a host who relentlessly connects people,” says Jeffries. He continues, “as a host, you become a human facebook. You’re not trying to make people date, just trying to make them connect. You have to be sharp enough to know when someone is uncomfortable and run over grab them and pull them away.”
– MIX IT UP! If you are serving dinner, separate husbands from wives (not Ashley Madison styles. See new issue of Toronto Life), colleagues and best friends, so everyone leaves meeting someone new
KIDS? But there are too many candles!
– Jeffries does not hold back on parents who bring their children as surprise plus ones. “NO! That would be shocking. People with children are fundamentally different to people without them. To bring them along to a party is the height of poor etiquette.” To be fair, the context given was a couple in their thirties, no kids, holding a party Friday night starting at 8PM.
His Solution: “You can not say ‘get those kids out’ but you can make them feel a little uncomfortable. ‘The music is going to be loud, we have a lot of alcohol and candles everywhere, so if you are happy to have them be a part of that risk then stay.’ Said with a serious tone, this translates to ‘what the fuck are you doing?'”
– Feeling bratty, we push a little further, “What about bringing the dog?”
“YOU JUST DON’T DO THOSE THINGS!” Spoken like a true high class Brit.
WHAT TO DRINK!
BE UNIQUE WITH YOUR DRINK CHOICE (Oh, did I mention Jeffries also happens to be a spokesperson for Kahlua?)
– Pick a unique drink. Try a Black Russian. People will be like ‘what is that?’, and if you are lucky people will say ‘let me have a taste.’ (perhaps unlucky if visible cold sore)
– Suddenly your drink becomes a talking point. We all need talking points. (Bad talking points = cell phone plans, Hitler, constipation, invoices)
– Be wary of wine lips
THE DEAD END CONVERSATION
“Be the first to release”
Jeffries mega tip: “Some people have natural conversation skills and are really good at talking. Those people will listen to conversation when it starts and they are thinking ‘what on earth to talk about next,’ so they may talk about the crazy markets or X-mas destinations. If you aren’t one of those people and you want to score extra points, you should release conversations first. Never be the last person to disperse, nor should you exit first. If you say, ‘It’s really nice to talk to you but I have to go over there now,’ Terrible! What you do say is, ‘so nice to chat with you, I’m going to let you get on, here’s my card or number, and let’s catch up later.’ The next time you see that person at another party, they won’t be frightened to come talk to you.”
THE DEADLY QUESTION: So, who do you think is hot in the office?
ENGAGE BUT DO NOT REVEAL
– “Until you are sure, especially if you are new, do not play your cards AT ALL. If you want to be slightly daring, you can say ‘I’ve got my eye on a few people,’ but leave it at that. Always assume that your words will be broadcast to someone else. You will be quoted elsewhere, and in today’s world that means twitter, facebook or some other social networking site,” says Jeffries.
– Jeffries advises: “However drunk you get you have to pre-agree with yourself that if you are going to make out with anyone it absolutely fundamentally can not be in the party space.” We concur!
I DON’T KNOW ANYONE! Sidle Up and Eavesdrop or Interject Maggie
– “Basically, you have your drink, and you are standing around on your own, and walk up to a small group of people. Pretend you are checking your Blackberry or doing something interesting,” (inspecting a lamp?) “LISTEN to what they are saying. Perhaps they are talking about something that you have vague knowledge about. If it’s too vague move on. In the next conversation, if you hear something about WHATEVER, fashion, Grey’s Anatomy, and you have an opinion, interrupt by saying ‘Sorry to interrupt, but I just heard you talking about this and I really agree with you,'” says Jeffries.
** WARNING: if you do this incorrectly you may look like a stalker
– Another trick, find the organizer and ask to be introduced, as she’s pulling crab cakes from the oven relaying ‘Oh that woman? That’s Maggie. She’s in PR.’ Use this as your secret weapon. Find Maggie and say, ‘Hey your Maggie, and you work in PR.’ Maggie will be so floored and flattered, she won’t know what hit her. It’s that easy!
SOCIALLY AWKWARD PARTNER? It’s Okay to Release
– Pre-event, approach disgruntled boyfriend with, ‘Would you like me to release you from this commitment? You don’t have to come if you don’t want.’ Easy, breezy, Jeffries always has a way out! He adds, “There’s nothing worse than a socially shy partner that’s dragging you down with ‘I’m so bored.’ Give them the freedom to say, ‘I’m not coming.'”
ENGINEERING A DATE
– If you send an e-mail to hot guy a few days later, make sure to reference where it is that you met and remark on a particular detail
Example: “So lovely to meet you at__________. I recall you had an interest in miniature horses. I stumbled upon this website and thought of you: http://www.worldssmallesthorse.com/ ” By doing this, you are not asking for a date, or asking for business, but showing that you heard them. Neeeeeeiiiiiggggghhhh!
DEGRASSI IN DA HOUSE
If you have a crush on Spinner from Degrassi, and you see him at a party, here’s how to handle
– Identify the middle man that you know. Who is he friends with?
– Approach second degree of separation and flirt through them, people instantly trust a connection.
– Never say ‘OMG, I’ve watched every one of your movies and they are fantastic!’ Then, it’s over before its begun.
(ahh, perhaps sub Spinner for George Clooney. Don’t be nervous to approach Degrassi Street Kids head on)
A SUCKERS GAME
– Jeffries shares a little secret about men: “There is a theory in the man’s world that just buying a girl drinks because she’s cute is a suckers game. Guys are far more impressed and motivated by a girl who A: offers to buy them drinks or B: buys their own.”
– Always pre-warn your partner, “My aunt is going to be really drunk, so just ignore everything she has to say.”
– If you are being embarrassed, it’s time to say, “We are leaving, so thank you very much. See ya.”
ABSOLUTE NO NO!
– Posting up every embarrassing photo on an online site somewhere. Even worse? TAGGING!
TOO BUSY TO THROW A HOLIDAY PARTY?
– Throw a January party! Jeffries informs me that the most miserable day of the year is January the 8th (Decorations gone, credit card bills in & resolutions failling), so hold a party then!