7 Tips for Making a Great Impression at the Work Christmas Party

Apart from being an occasion where Bill from HR can show off his moves on the dance floor, the infamous work Christmas Party is a useful setting to make an impression on your fellow colleagues.

Christmas Parties are the places where reputations are made and lost, so it makes sense to go in with a strategy to impress. After all, your colleagues can tell a lot about you as a person based on how you behave when you let your hair down.

Here are 7 essential tips for helping you to make a great impression at the work Christmas party this year.

1.   Don’t drink too much

Alcohol — specifically, drinking more than you can handle —  is probably one of the most obvious hazards that presents itself at your Christmas party. It can have particularly damaging consequences when it comes to trying to make a positive impression on others. 

If you want to appear as a mature, responsible member of the workplace, getting blind-drunk and causing a scene is unlikely to convince many people to take you seriously. Instead, you run the risk of becoming immortalized as a hilarious anecdote — as someone whose infamous Christmas party exploits are sniggered about in hushed tones at the office water-cooler.

That’s because alcohol is a drug: and an addictive one at that.  It’s actually a depressant and sedative, which means that it slows down your body. An important thing to bear in mind for the Christmas party season is that alcohol actively disrupts the communication channels in your brain, making it harder to think and act clearly. That obviously has clear implications if you’re wanting to make a good impression on people!

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a few drinks as long as you know your limits and to pace yourself. This means being aware of how your body reacts to alcohol and how your behaviour changes under the influence of alcohol. Check out this blog for some more advice on how to control your alcohol intake.

2.   Keep your phone switched off

 We’ve all been in a situation where we’re talking to a friend or acquaintance and they get out their phone and start scrolling mid-conversation, whilst still listening to us.

It can be funny, infuriating or perfectly acceptable, depending on your own preference. It’s not a particularly polite behaviour though, especially if you’re around people you don’t know that well.

It even has a name — phubbing, or ‘phone-snubbing’: the act of snubbing another person’s conversation in favour of checking your phone.

Why is phubbing so bad in terms of communication? Well, communication is about more than just the words that you say. Humans also rely on

Of course, it’s always good to take your phone with you, in terms of arranging taxis at the end of the night and in case of emergency, so don’t leave it at home all-together. Instead, just switch it off and keep it in your bag or pocket for the duration of the party.

A group of male and female employees stood in a circle with drinks at a Christmas party

3.   Pay attention to the dress code

 Ever had that nightmare about turning up somewhere very crowded and suddenly discovering, to your horror, that you’re completely naked? You can get a similar feeling of horror turning up to a work Christmas party and discovering that you’re the only person wearing a t-shirt and jeans whilst everyone else is wearing cocktail dresses and black ties.

 Unfortunately, the clothes we wear influence how others perceive us. If you’re looking to make a good impression, getting the clothes you wear right is really important. That’s because matching them to the dress code of the overall event will help you to blend better with the group, making them more likely to take you seriously and involve you.

There are a wide range of dress codes that you might be asked to follow when attending a party. This really useful blog explores most of them. For simplicity’s sake though, here are the most obvious ones that you’ll probably come across in the context of a Christmas party. They are:

  • Black tie: Formal wear - think stylish dresses and sharp suits
  • Smart casual: Informal - comfortable, but still smart
  • Cocktail: Elegant evening gowns and
  • Festive: Christmas jumpers, Santa hats etc.

4.   Talk to people you don’t know

When we’re catapulted into an overwhelming social space with a lot of unfamiliar people it can be tempting to cling to the people that we do know. The result is cold, unfriendly parties where small groups of people who know each congregate together separately and never mix.

Breaking down the boundaries and talking to people who you don’t know will help to present you as a confident, friendly and approachable person, setting a great first impression with others.

If you’re one of the people who started a new job in the middle of the pandemic, and this is the first time you’ve got to have a real conversation with your colleagues, attending the work Christmas Party will no doubt be a daunting affair, filled with strangers. It’s a challenge that you’re more than capable of rising to though. Be brave and try to engage people you don’t know in conversation.

Here are some basic conversation tips for talking to strangers:

  • Try to find similarities that bring you closer to comment on
  • Listen. Listen.
  • Smile!
  • Adopt an open and relaxed body language
  • Practice open questions beforehand (more on this below!)

Two employees playing a game at a Christmas party

5.   Ask open questions

Have you ever been trapped in conversation with someone and they only ever ask you questions that can be answered with yes or no, or other monosyllabic phrase? “How long have you worked here?”, “Do you like this song?”, “Do you like reindeer?”  After a while, it can start to feel like an interrogation and you’ll probably come away from the interaction thinking about how much hard work it was interacting with the person – in other words, your perception of that person will be negatively affected.

Try not to be that person at a party. Instead of falling into the trap of relying on closed questions – those which can only be answered with one word, like ‘yes’ or ‘no’ – use open questions, which can be answered in any number of ways to advance a conversation.

 At the end of the day, people love to talk about themselves, so give them an opportunity to by asking open questions. Of course, sometimes you’ll have to use closed questions to advance a conversation but the trick is to not get overly reliant on them.

Examples of possible open questions to use include:

  • “What do you enjoy most about working here?”
  • “What made you choose X for a career?”
  • “Tell me about yourself”

6.   Avoid controversial conversation topics

 It almost goes without saying that if you want to make a good impression at your Christmas Party it pays to avoid controversial conversation topics.

Most of it boils down to common sense and relevancy. If you’re talking to a diehard vegan, you probably don’t want to start talking about how much you love pigs in blankets and how you can’t wait until you can have your three-bird, Christmas roast. Likewise, if you’re talking to someone who’s just finished a messy breakup, maybe don’t start talking about that amazing divorce storyline on your favorite soap.

Steer clear of any conversation points that could be potential flashpoints and you should be able to dazzle anyone you’re talking to and leave them charmed.

7.   Think before you speak

Words matter. Particularly in social environments, and especially where you’re trying to leave a positive impression on people.

Unfortunately, our minds can be our own worst enemies sometimes.

When we’re nervous or excited, we can often find that our words run away with us. We might find all that pent up energy trying to release itself in odd ways. For example, in our rush to find something to say, we might blurt out something really inappropriate or not relevant to the conversation, getting the people speaking to us scratching their heads, or worse - thinking that we’re strange.

One way you can reduce the risk of embarrassing yourself by saying too much or too little is to set an intention of how you want to be perceived ahead of the event and focus the majority of your interventions into conversations on that. Consider how everything you say contributes to the wider aim of changing the way that you’re perceived amongst your colleagues. 

This article by Science of People explores the psychology of conversations and the 11 of the key elements that make for successful interactions with other people.

Have these tips been useful for you? We hope you put them to good use when it comes to wowing your colleagues at your work Christmas party this year. Best of luck!

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