5 Holiday Party Types

Once again, a year has passed and your firm’s holiday party is rapidly approaching. You enjoyed the last event and, unlike a certain officemate, managed to get through the evening without belting out a "unique" rendition of "I Will Always Love You" in front of your peers. When viewed from this perspective, in fact, the evening was a success.

However, as you contemplate this year’s celebration, you’re likely interested in more than making it through the evening without embarrassing yourself. After all, the holiday party is an opportunity to connect with those individuals you don’t typically have a chance to chat with and build rapport. Following are some types of people you’ll probably see at a holiday celebration and tips for making the best possible impression with each.

The Executive. If you work for a large company, you may rarely see the CEO, much less have a conversation with him or her. But a holiday celebration can provide just such an opportunity. Have an idea of what you’re going to say before you shake an executive’s hand. (Hint: This is not the time to express your desire for a more casual dress code or dismay at the size of this year’s holiday bonus). Introduce yourself briefly and then make light, upbeat conversation. For example, you might say how much you’re enjoying this year’s holiday party and ask the executive about his or her holiday plans. Company higher-ups are often inundated with people wishing to speak to them, so don’t monopolize their time. Chat briefly, and move on.

The Chatty Cathy. This person loves to talk—in fact, you can’t get a word in edgewise. You’ve listened patiently as your coworker described his food allergies, his cat’s diet and his last five vacations (all to the same destination), and you’re desperate to make a gracious getaway. Yet, each time you try to do so, your colleague launches into a long, drawn-out story. While this person’s antics may be frustrating, keep in mind that he or she probably is lonely and lacks social skills. Your first step should be to draw others into the discussion. Once you have several people talking, the conversation is bound to grow livelier. It also will be easier to leave, as your loquacious coworker will have another audience—at least for a while.

The Party Animal. This coworker is lining up tequila shots before the party has even begun and wants you to join in the fun. If last year’s party is any indication, the festivities will include tap dancing on the bar and playing air guitar as others watch in morbid fascination. While you want to be friendly to your colleague, don’t get drawn into the mayhem. Let him or her know you must get up early the next morning and are taking it easy. Suggest that the two of you hit the town another night—preferably when the whole company isn’t watching.

The Wallflower. You notice someone you’ve never seen before hovering around the buffet table looking uncomfortable. Take a chance; introduce yourself and offer to introduce the new person to others at the party. He or she may be a new employee or client who doesn’t know anyone yet. This person also could be someone’s guest who’s simply in search of conversation that doesn’t involve shoptalk. Smoothing the way for someone is a kind act, and your good intentions may even be repaid. If this person is a new employee, he or she will be more likely to help you out in a pinch; if you end up talking with the vice president’s spouse, your new contact could put in a kind word for you.

The Rival. We all have someone at work we’re not crazy about, whether it’s the account manager whose promises to clients have resulted in many late nights for your team, or the creative director whose ego could fill a banquet hall. While you may want to avoid this person at all costs, consider extending a peace offering at the holiday party, whether it’s paying that person a compliment or offering him or her the last of the coveted fudge brownies. Your efforts may not always make a difference, but you’ll enjoy yourself all the more knowing that you behaved generously in the spirit of the holidays.

Giving a little thought to how you interact with everyone from executives to adversaries at an office party can make the holiday event much brighter. The impressions and connections you make may prove to be especially helpful when the celebration is over and everyone is back in business mode.

The Creative Group is a specialized staffing service placing creative, advertising, marketing and Web professionals on a project basis with a variety of firms.