Posted At: October 23, 2012 9:58 A.M.
Recently, I attended the PRSSA National Conference in San Francisco, Calif. It was a huge conference where we got to learn about the ins and outs of the ever-changing public relations world, network with some of the top professionals in our industry and meet some other incredible students from around the country.
Looking back on my time in San Francisco, one of my favorite moments was attending my first corporate cocktail party, which was a very enlightening experience.
Since this was a corporate cocktail party, I had a very different outlook on it than I would if I were going to a big dinner party with my parents. The hosts were professionals in my dream field and were representing one of my favorite companies. I came up with a list of tips that I think are very helpful for when you attend corporate cocktail parties this holiday season, or in the future.
What would Jackie wear?
When figuring out what to wear to a corporate cocktail party, I think of the famous style icon Jackie O. She is still known today for wearing some of the most fabulous outfits that were classy and conservative. Think about what you can wear before you assemble your outfit. This may mean that you bring a change of clothes to work with you if your party is right after work.
You want to appear well put together, not leave people wondering where you are going right after the event. You wouldn’t believe some of the outfit choices I saw for this function.
BCBG’s power skirts are just not acceptable for a professional function. I love those skirts, I have a few of them, but I wouldn’t wear them to a corporate cocktail party.
How much is too much?
Now that you have assembled your outfit and made your entry into the party, it’s time to address the bar . . . Assuming you’re of age (and I am). I couldn’t help but ask myself, what should I drink? How many should I get? Is it even okay to have a drink? Needless to say, I was a little stressed.
Then I remembered a little rule my mom told me when I turned 21. For girls, only order two glasses of wine throughout the night, and make them last! If you have the unfortunate purple teeth gene you should probably stay away from red wine and just stick to white for the evening. Remember, this may be the first impression that professionals have of you.
If you choose to partake in a beverage, you need to do so responsibly. Personally, I would stick to wine and avoid hard cocktails at events like these. Martini glasses are just awkward to walk around a party with. They always spill, and that might send the wrong message. For guys, I would stick to beer or wine. These are just comfortable, staple drink choices.
One thing to avoid at all costs is taking shots, especially if you are trying to network with this company for the first time. There were at least three students at this event throwing back tequila shots like there was no tomorrow. I remember thinking . . . “Oh Lord Have Mercy.” These poor students just looked silly licking the salt, tossing back the tequila and squeezing a lime in their mouths. Not to mention, no one has an attractive facial expression during this process. You want to woo your prospective employer, not just “wooooooooooooo!”
My last bit of advice is to just be yourself — it’s time to work the room! This is my favorite part because now these professionals get to know you on a different level.
Let your personality shine. Think about it. These professionals have been at work all day long. The last thing they want to do is talk about work again and again. Definitely still be professional and sell yourself as someone they want to hire, but have fun with your conversations. Professionals want to see who you are at these events; that’s why they host them. I wouldn’t bring your résumé, but definitely bring your business card, because they will be passing them out, as well.
Hopefully, with these three tips, you will be able to professionally “wow” any room that you walk into! Happy networking!