How to Be Awesome at Cocktail Parties

Summer is (basically) here and with the warm weather comes cool cocktails and more reasons to get together and mingle. Attending a cocktail party is an excellent way to increase your awareness about a particular cause, network with like-minded professionals or just to have fun – and we’re here to tell you how to make the most of the event. So without further ado, here’s how to be awesome at cocktail parties:

Know your role

Are you attending a gala to raise money for a particular charity? Is the host requiring you to bring something specific to share with guests or as a type of “entry fee” to the event? Read those RSVPs! And respond to them! Typically it’s best to respond to RSVPs within two days so hosts are able to get an accurate headcount and plan accordingly. And if you know the reason for the party, you’ll know how to prepare for conversations with other guests.

Dress accordingly

Again, read those RSVPs for dress instruction. It’s generally better to be overdressed than underdressed, but don’t be afraid to check with the host if you’re not sure how to suit up (or down). Also, take off your sunglasses while you’re indoors unless you have completely given up on life and don’t care about making friends or having any type of future at all. Or unless you’re Prince. Anything is acceptable if you’re Prince.

Get your chat style in check

Do your best to say hello to the host within 10 minutes or so, but don’t follow him/her around like a stalker. Don’t make first introductions in the restroom. Try to find natural “ins” with people via mutual friends or colleagues and don’t be afraid to meet new people! Use your intuition and super-sharp-body-language-detection skills to determine if someone or a small group is open to conversation. Keep it light and short, add a joke (if it comes naturally to you) and don’t forget to share your business card. No snobbery. No gossip. Repeat: no gossip. Talking trash about other guests is the quickest way to remove yourself from future invite lists.

Practice self-control

Free food? Open bar? Natural instinct says USE YOUR ELBOWS AND TAKE NO PRISONERS, but with a classy event like a cocktail party, guerrilla warfare may be frowned upon. Casual drinking is acceptable and expected; double-fisting is not. Remember, you’re there to meet, not eat. Don’t pile a mountain of hors-d’oeuvres on your plate and seclude yourself in the corner. You don’t want to get a reputation as the guy/girl who only shows up for snacks or, worse, the one who always gets sloppy. Keep indulgence to a minimum.

Be in the moment

We all have phones. We all take photos. We all post to Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Tumblr, Snapchat, project selfies onto the side of buildings, get those ravens from Game of Thrones to carry photo messages to our friends across the country … okay so a couple of those are sarcastic, but you get it. We live in a culture of social, and more so, self-obsession. But cocktail parties are made for face-to-face interaction. Take a couple of photos, sure, but experience the moment in real-time as much as you can. Meet people. Talk by using real words that come out of your mouth rather than a keyboard. Plus, many people aren’t comfortable with their photos being taken, so snapping away and posting online without their permission may turn some people off.

Mind your Ps and Qs

Never show up empty handed: bring an appropriate small gift (bottle of wine, flowers, etc.) for the host and make sure to include a personalized message and name tag (get that credit!). Never bring any extra guests who were not invited or accounted for. If there’s a specific ending time for the event, respect it. (Read: Don’t shut the place down.) And finally, make sure to thank your host. A little gratitude goes a long way.

As Tampa Bay Business Journal‘s “Favorite Meeting Venue” and Creative Loafing‘s “Best Swanky Event Space,” NOVA 535 Unique Event Space knows a thing or two about hosting a cocktail party. If you’re looking for the perfect place to enhance your business (or personal) brand and impress your guests, get started planning your event at NOVA today. And then be awesome at it.

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