4 ways to profit from holiday parties

Image courtesy of Flickr user Ford

This time of year, there are a lot of parties: some with clients, some with partners and vendors, some for employees. If you're Scrooge-like, tired or just busy, they can feel like an awful waste of time. But they aren't -- if you go with the right attitude.

Be there. If you've decided to turn up, do so 100 percent. Don't sit in the corner and scowl. Don't whine about how busy you are. Don't just trot out the same old platitudes you used at last year's party. Find or manufacture some optimism. (Yes, I know it's hard at the moment.) Engage and be memorable. Otherwise -- stay at your desk.

Don't just consume. You may imagine that people invited you in order to pour alcohol and food down your throat, and perhaps they did. But the chances are that they wanted to build a relationship with you, thank you for work you've done together in the past or lay the groundwork for projects in the future. Good guests don't just consume, they contribute. So think about how you might add to the party, to the business to the sense of occasion.

Talk to strangers. Most people at parties talk to the people they already know. For everyone, this can be quite dull. After all, if you were that close, you'd have met anyway. So take this opportunity to get to know someone new. It could be an employee or the person down the hall. If you're the boss, you probably don't think you're intimidating -- but you are, unless or until you prove that you're interested in other people.

Stay sober. These are desperate times, I know. And all the research shows that, in recessions, people eat, drink and smoke more. You have my sympathy. But do that at home among friends and family. The business party is not the place to demonstrate your inner angst or to introduce your wacky sense of humor.

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    Margaret Heffernan has been CEO of five businesses in the United States and United Kingdom. A speaker and writer, her most recent book Willful Blindness was shortlisted for the Financial Times Best Business Book 2011. Visit her on www.MHeffernan.com.