In our field of media sales (outside sales, in most cases), which is very social-friendly, we have to pay attention to the perception we give new prospects and customers after-hours. If you break society’s rules, you easily can sabotage yourself on your way up the ladder of success. There are all kinds of landmines waiting for you, especially if you are new to sales. The following list is what to stay away from, what not to do, and how to act in public especially in after-hour gatherings. It will go a long way in keeping with the image of professionalism.
1. Holding Your Drink: Always hold your drink in your left hand. This way you can shake with the right without spilling your drink and you won’t freeze the other person’s hand when you shake it. This will help your right hand stay warm and dry.
2. Handshake: If it’s limp, it suggests you are insecure and unsure of yourself. Make it firm and you will show warmth and openness; don’t squeeze them to death, either. If you do squeeze them to death, it could convey to them that you are insensitive and maybe too dominating.
3. Talk Calmly: Don’t talk with a loud voice; this turns people off. It also gives the impression that you are overbearing. Your tone and volume should fit the time and situation.
4. End at 8 p.m.: A cocktail party should never run more than two hours. Start at 6 p.m. and get out by 8 p.m. Strange things seem to happen after 8 p.m. (Trust me on this one.) Stop the bar 15 minutes before the party is to end to discourage late drinking.
5. Don’t Interrupt: When someone else is talking, wait your turn. It’s just plan rude to interrupt. If you don’t interrupt, you will appear polite, you will be able to hear them better, and they will be able to understand what you are saying. Listen -- it’s the toughest thing we salespeople ever have to do.
6. Smoking: Most public meetings today are non-smoking events. Light up in the wrong crowd and you could instantly offend someone, maybe your customer. Go outside if you have to smoke and always find an ashtray.
7. Pay Attention: Looking away while someone else is talking to you is bad form and bad manners. Paying attention is one of the great keys to communicating and commanding respect, and it’s the greatest compliment you can give to the other person.
8. Watch Your Hands: Unless you went to high school together and you always hug that particular person, the only safe place to touch someone is on the hand, when you shake it. Touching any other part of the body is dangerous without permission. You might think it’s innocent, others might think it’s suggestive. I’ve broken this rule before and hugged someone upon first meeting them. To me it was innocent, though I felt uncomfortable after I did it. Sometimes, we just screw up and make mistakes. As long as we learn our lessons. In Europe it is very common to kiss two cheeks upon meeting. Just make sure you know where you are and what country you are in when you do it and what the local customs are.
9. Body Language: If you are not facing your companion squarely and looking them in the face, you might be showing them a lack of interest. This can be insulting and can garner hostile feelings toward you. During the D-Day 70th anniversary this past week in Normandy, France, Russian President Vladimir Putin and new Ukrainian President-elect Petro Poroshenko spoke for a few moments with the help of Germany’s Chancellor, Angela Merkel. I noticed that neither of the two men would talk squarely to each other during their discussion. I wonder how their relationship is going to turn out?
10. Never Take It Off: Never take off your clothing unless your host does it first. In other words, never take off that jacket or loosen that tie unless your host does so first and says you can, too. It is bad form to dress down at a social gathering without permission of those who sponsored it.
11. Control The Alcohol: You might think you are having a great time (and you probably are), but those around you might think differently. If someone becomes loud and abusive, that person should be given a ride home. This person can ruin the enjoyment of everyone else around them and destroy their own reputation at the same time.
12. Comfort Zone: Most people’s comfort zone is about three feet. Don’t invade this space. When someone else does it, we always back away. You don’t want people looking at you thinking you have bad body odor because people flee in the other direction when you get too close to them.
Follow these tips on your next after-hours gathering. I’ve made almost all of those mistakes at one time or another during my career and learned some valuable lessons from them. It’s not easy to go home unscathed after a good party with the above rules of party-going. Also, pay attention to see how other people are conducting themselves in these situations. You might want to do a little curbside coaching, especially if one of them works with you or for you.
Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group International and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org orwww.luceperformancegroup.com. Sean’s new book The Liquid Fire can be found on Amazon.com.