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November 11, 2008

Shaun Whitehouse:Your Christmas party survival guide

The general manager of London’s Commonwealth Club offers his advice on festive corporate bash etiquette.

Christmas parties are usually occasions when you look forward to letting your hair down and joining in the festive fun with work colleagues, but equally clients could be present too, or you could be holding a festive event purely for them. Whatever the reason for the party, there is always a danger of enjoying yourself too much and forgetting that it's still about business.

Don't fall off the fast track to success or risk damaging your professional reputation in one night of drunken inadvertent blunders.

I’ve witnessed many office party tragedies at the hundreds of party's the club plays host to every festive season. To help you avoid this minefield of potential mishaps here are my tips to party etiquette:

Dress appropriately for the occasion
This rule is crucial for women. Leave anything short, tight or revealing for a night out with friends. You need to maintain a professional image, and revealing clothes can alter your co-workers and manager's – not mention clients’ – perception of you. A fancy dress costume won't help you up the career ladder either.

Guest list
Find out who can come to the event. Spouses and significant others are not always on the guest list. Check beforehand to avoid a potentially uncomfortable evening.

Eat, drink and be merry
…but in moderation. Remember, too much alcohol can result in you saying things you regret. Have fun while keeping the drinking to a minimum. You don't want to be thinking: "I can't believe I said that to my boss," the next day.

The Christmas party may be the only time you see the president or chief executive in person. Make the most of the opportunity and introduce yourself. Don't make the mistake of following the them around all evening though – it won't help to look like you are trying too hard.

Make new friends
Get in the holiday spirit and mingle with people from other departments. Don't spend your entire evening with your usual office chums.

Be gracious
If you've been a star performer in your organisation, you may be honoured with a toast. Accept the honour gracefully, don't drink to yourself or clap when others are applauding you. Also, thank the person who toasted you.

Timing is everything
Pay attention to the time you arrive and when you leave. Don't be the first to leave, but also don't be the last to leave, either, partying into the early hours.

Be grateful

Be sure to thank those who coordinated the party. They likely put in a great deal of effort into it for you to have a good time. Not only is saying thank you the polite thing to do, it also makes you stand out from the many employees who won't.

Shaun Whitehouse is general manager of London venue the Commonwealth Club

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