If you’re an extrovert, the thought of attending an office party probably leaves you beaming with excitement. What better way to celebrate the end of the year by making new friends and having fun over food and drinks? All you have to do is find the perfect holiday attire and you are ready to roll.
On the other hand, if you’re a shy introvert, you’re probably strategizing the best way to decline the party invitation. Being around large crowds of people can be overwhelming and draining–a party with you and your book in the comfort of your home would be much more appealing. But since it’s the end of the year, you’ve decided to make a social compromise, and you have constantly been telling yourself that this will be worth your time.
Breathe. All you have to do is prepare yourself and walk in with a purpose in order to make your time worthwhile. Here is what you can do to avoid holiday party jitters and make some meaningful connections at your next office party:
1. Prepare Yourself for the Social Experience
If you haven’t been out in a while, you don’t want your holiday party to be your first appearance back on the social scene. Build your social confidence by surrounding yourself with people who would be thrilled to meet you and converse with you.
Toastmasters is the perfect place to test your social skills in a safe learning environment. As a guest, you will have the chance to introduce yourself at the beginning of the meeting, and you will be able to participate in table topics during the meeting; tables topics is the extemporaneous speaking portion of the meeting that allows people who are not on the agenda to speak for 1-2 minutes on a topic designated by the table topics master. Don’t worry about your nerves getting the best of you. The smiles and positive reinforcement from the members of the club will provide you with the encouragement you need to reduce any social anxieties that try to creep inside of you. If you can handle this, you’ll be ready to engage with people at your next holiday party.
2. Enjoy Alone Time Before the Party
Need alone time? Introverts typically need to recharge their energy with some quiet time before embarking on a social event. This is the perfect time to make an appointment for that Milk & Honey foot spa treatment. You’ve had your eyes on this type of pampering for months. Soaking your feet in a warm milk bath with honey-infused brown sugar crystals will not only soothe your feet, but it’ll also give you the chance to refuel your batteries before the holiday party, making you a happier and more effective networker.
3. Brainstorm Conversation Starters
The last thing you want to do is join a conversation and have absolutely nothing to say. Not everyone is the outgoing extrovert who can start a conversation with anyone on the spot. Do what works for you: just make sure to have purposeful, meaningful, and impactful conversations. Entering a conversation armed with potential small talk starters will make your evening a lot more pleasant. Need ideas? Think about the people who will be attending. Refresh your memory with stories about the people that you may know. Remember details about their personal lives that could make a person light up with excitement.
Don’t know anyone? Well, don’t let that stop you from initiating conversation; this can actually be a conversation starter! Walk up to an open and friendly group of people (or one person if that’s a bit more comforting) and simply say, “Hi! I don’t know that many people here so I just wanted to introduce myself. I’m (insert name) and (insert something about you that would lead to a good conversation).” You can say, “I just traveled here from (location)”, “I work for (insert)”, or “I help people (insert).” You can ask others, “What brought you here tonight?” or “What’s your story?” Ask open-ended questions that will allow you to further engage with others.
4. Review Proper Dining Etiquette Procedures
You don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to yourself when you’re at the dining table by accidentally using your neighbor’s silverware or chowing down on your bread roll like it was a juicy hamburger. Here are a few basic dining etiquette rules to remember:
- Place your napkin on your lap as soon as you arrive at the table.
- Pay attention to the placement of all silverware, glasses, and plates around you. Eat to your left and drink to your right. Any food dish to your left is yours to grab and the glass to your right is yours.
- Wait for everyone to be served before you start eating.
- When multiple utensils are by your plate, work from the outside in. Use the silverware farthest from your plate first; this is typically what you use for the salad. When you are finished with your meal, the knife and fork are placed side by side on the plate.
Try these tips and you won’t have to stress about your next holiday party. You’ll just have to find the perfect outfit and you’re ready to roll.