Talking Tips for Your Company’s Holiday Party

Beyond the decorations, appetizers and festive outfits, the biggest part of your company holiday party is conversing with your coworkers and the higher-ups. What you say can affect more than just how the party goes – it can affect your future. Here are four important tips to remember when making small talk at the company party.

Yes, it’s that time of year again, when businesses across the globe become more festive than ever—with holiday music piped throughout the buildings, dazzling decorations and of course a big party to celebrate the season.

At these parties, you’re sure to participate in conversation with your colleagues. What an opportunity this gives you to create bonds with newcomers, and to enrich longtime workplace partnerships!

You don’t want to can these conversations, of course, because they would come across as artificial and robotic. It’s helpful, though, to keep in mind some guidelines that will make the evening more pleasant for everybody you associate with—and prompt your teammates to remember you more favorably.

So I suggest you consider these four tips for chit chat at your company’s annual party.

FIRST: Steer away from politics. Because many of us stay informed by watching the news, we get saturated with interviews and commentary about who the good guys and ladies are and likewise who are the bad ones. Most of us hope that when we go to our corporate party, we won’t be bombarded again with conversation about indictments, treason, accusations, lawsuits, resignations, firings, inappropriate comments, e-mail misuse, and other distressing topics.

Not only are you and your colleagues weary of hearing political pundits who seem to get paid by the word, there’s another fact to consider: In most cases, talking about politics is not going to change anybody’s mind—either yours or theirs. What happens instead is that highly opinionated people will get frustrated, angry, and even hostile.
The recent funeral for President George H.W. Bush reminded me of his call for a “kinder, gentler nation.” Unfortunately, we’re not there yet. Too many zealots bristle when more moderate individuals question their judgment.

SECOND: My second talking tip for your company’s holiday party: Stay highly positive. This is not a time for gloom and doom. We get so much of that the rest of the year. For a couple of hours, all of us want to unwind and remain upbeat. Examples:

–We may be tempted to say, “Service at our table seems especially slow. That table over there is enjoying desserts, while our main course hasn’t even arrived.”

In place of that negative approach, you could comment: “Well, I noticed that the other table got its dessert sooner than we got our food. But I commend those foodservice professionals—they have a big assignment serving so many meals at one time. Amazing how well they do!

–Again, we may be tempted to say, “Aren’t you shivering? Below freezing outside, and feels like that here, too”? Far better to stand and say, “I’m going to ask our host if he can adjust this thermostat. I think we’d more comfortable with a couple of more degrees of heat.”

Reminds me of one of the times my wife and I took a cruise. Every night we ate with the same two couples. One couple was jovial, upbeat, and positive. The other couple spent the entire dinner talking about all that had gone wrong that day. Guess which couple we remember fondly and would want to dine with again.

THIRD: For tip number three, be very careful about your jokes and off-the-cuff remarks. Headlines throughout the year have confirmed this new reality: language that might have been tolerated previously has become unacceptable, offensive and in extreme cases leads to highly undesirable publicity and even legal action.

Naturally, we can still compliment another partygoer about how they look and how well they dance. Tastefully expressed compliments are welcomed. Good judgment tells us the language borders we shouldn’t cross.

Enough said on that point: Respect and dignity will establish new friendships and solidify existing bonds.

FOURTH: My fourth tip is also very important for conversation. Long ago I read this advice somewhere: “When holding a conversation, be sure to let go of it once in a while.”

Think for a minute about the men and women you enjoy being with the most. Chances are strong that you will not name the gentlemen or lady who tells many long-winded stories that dominate the time with you. Quite the opposite… you’ll have high esteem for the acquaintance who makes remarks like these:

“Very interesting… tell me more. . .then what happened?”

When you become the keenest listener at your company’s party, you can easily become the most memorable conversationalist.

In closing, I recommend putting these talking tips into action at your company’s holiday party. You’ll be glad you did, and so will everybody you associate with at the event.

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