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When You've Been Invited To A Client's Holiday Party

Its mid-November, and that means the corporate holiday party circuit is here!

Whether it's planning for this year's edition of Secret Santas, buying employee gifts that are actually relevant in the modern era or pulling off a Thanksgiving lunch in the break room, we'll be spending some quality time with our least-favorite co-workers.

But what if you've been invited to a client's holiday party? Ah, now things get interesting! It's not your party, and you can't cry if you want to. You'll have to navigate another company's holiday shindig -- with all of its unspoken third rails, cough -- without putting your foot in your mouth.

It's very nice of the client to invite you, isn't it? They must like you, and what a good feeling that is! Attending a client's holiday festivities can represent a tricky minefield, however, because you will be representing your employer. In fact, you may be the company in your client's eyes if you are their sole point of contact. Talk about pressure to get things right.

How To Work the Party Circuit
So how do you work this party circuit? Here are five quick tips for putting your best foot forward when you have been invited to a client's holiday festivities:

1. Show up. We live in the age of the Aspirational R.S.V.P., where showing up after R.S.V.P.'ing online has become optional. But if you said you would go, then GO. Do not blow it off, otherwise you will create an unspoken rift with your client. That rift, in case it isn't obvious, is "You said you'd come to my party, but you didn't show up." Never ghost a client; it's bad business. You can keep your attendance brief, but make sure to show up if you said you would!

2. Dress up. You don't have to dress to the nines, but you should look professional. Think about how your client dresses and aim for something that would coordinate with it. Dress for party success. Your goal is to fit in smoothly, not stand out awkwardly. Putting in a little extra effort than you would make for your own co-workers shows respect for the client as well as for the event they are hosting.

3. Shut up. It goes without saying that you can't talk to a client's employees the same way you talk to your co-workers. Sure, your best client might be uber laid back, but this isn't your workplace. Avoid sexually-charged jokes, TMI about your personal life, and language that would make your grandmother blush. Also, politics. It's on everyone's mind right now. You might feel like we're all about to star in a national reality TV series called S*%t Show, but discussing politics at somebody else's company party could get you kicked off their corporate platform. It's wise to tread carefully.

4. Stand up. Rise from your seat when somebody wants to introduce themselves. Put your phone away when someone is talking to you, and don't look around the room while they are speaking. Do not push past employees you feel aren't "important enough" to meet, because they sense it right away (and they might someday be in charge of your account). If it's a buffet or potluck situation, then let others go first as a courtesy. When it's your turn, do not take too much food. Do not complain about the food, either. Do not take food home unless the client offers it. Otherwise, you can hit the Taco Bell drive-thru after the party like everyone else.

5. Follow up. Make sure to say "thank you" to your main contact before leaving the party (here's how to leave a party), and/or send a short follow-up email or text to thank them. You had a great time, and you appreciated the invitation! Look for future opportunities to invite this client to your company's festivities, too. It's a great way to return the favor, and to build a bond.

Bottom line: this isn't our company party, it's somebody else's company party. So we'll need to put on our best party manners before showing up. These days, proper business party manners start with actually showing up. We'll all survive another company's holiday party together! Feel free to share your tidbits and morsels of advice, too. We'll be sure to eat it up. Have fun at the party!


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