Corporate events can be equal parts exciting and intimidating for first-time attendees or even repeat visitors. As soon as you receive a formal invitation, the pressure is on to make a good impression, maintain composure in your business negotiation and strike a delicate balance between mingling with acquaintances and strangers alike – all while trying to enjoy yourself too! As someone who helps plan dozens of corporate events each year, from evening cocktail receptions to morning conferences and educational seminar, I know a thing or two about what goes on during business meetings and wanted to share some easy etiquette tips for making the most of your experience.
Respond To The RSVP In A Timely Manner
First and foremost, you need to respond to the host who has kindly invited you to the reception/conference/cocktail party. Read over the invitation carefully to see when the deadline for sending in your RSVP and either do it immediately so you don’t forget or put a reminder in your phone so you can follow up in a timely manner. Can you bring a +1? Do you have any food intolerances or require any physical assistance? Let the host know in your RSVP so he/she has enough time to plan ahead and accommodate your needs.
Follow The Dress Code
Make sure you understand the dress code for the event and when in doubt, confirm with your host in advance. Many events now are business casual, which means you have more flexibility with what you wear but you should always strive to make a good impression: being overdressed is better than being underdressed and will help avoid any uncomfortable scenarios or surprises.
Be On Time!
Timeliness is something that will vary very much by culture and event but in general you should aim to arrive to corporate events a few minutes early or right on time. Being punctual shows you respect your host and value his/her time and is common courtesy. You don’t want to risk delaying the events being planned by showing up late.
Introduce Yourself (And Your Acquaintances)
The art of mingling with strangers is something that comes with time and practice but is an essential factor to having a good experience at a business or social event. Greet other guests you’ve seen before and when someone new approaches your group to speak with you, make sure to introduce the other people in your party as well.
Don’t Drink Too Much
A corporate event may have an open-bar but this isn’t happy hour, even if you’re attending an evening reception. You should make every effort to maintain composure, professionalism and clarity at an event surrounded by professional contacts. Nothing ends a negotiation sooner than sloppy behavior. If you have trouble restraining yourself, try asking for a glass of water in between each drink – or stay dry and ask for mocktails which feel festive while helping you maintain peace of mind.
Avoid Getting Too Personal
Although you may have close relationships with some of the guests at the event, you should avoid discussing topics that are too personal in a professional forum. Your personal finances, health concerns or political opinions may be at the fore of your mind but it’s best to talk about these topics outside of a work setting otherwise you may risk making important professional contacts who feel uncomfortable discussing these issues in a formal gathering.
Say Farewell To The Host
Making a good exit is just as important as making a good entrance! Make sure to find your host as you’re getting ready to leave so you can thank him/her for inviting you to the event. This is also a good time to quickly settle any outstanding questions or business related discussions that may have been mentioned at the beginning of the event.
Send A Thank You Note
Sending a personalized thank you note to your host makes a great impression and will ensure you are invited to future events. Make a point to send it within a week so the event is still fresh in everyone’s mind – if you wait too long, you may come off as disorganized or give the impression that you didn’t enjoy yourself. You can send this as an email or, if you prefer, as a physical card. Who doesn’t like receiving snail mail every once in a while?