Events etiquette is a large ocean which you need to carefully navigate – unless you want to get shipwrecked on the Island of Embarrassment, or at best run aground on the Rocks of Shame.

Most of us have a funny story about someone who committed a faux pas at a function; or worse yet, know someone who is always that guy who takes over the conversation, drinks too much and ends up in a fountain, or always answers his phone smack bang in the middle of importance moments – you know, that guy. Knowing your fish fork from your bread knife and when to wear or not to wear a tux can be murky waters.

In Part 1 of the article, we dealt with invitations, RSVPs and your arrival at the venue. Now let’s walk through the front doors and see how you should navigate the rest of the function.

  • Meet and greet

When you arrive, greet your host with a smile and handshake and introduce yourself if you do not personally know the person. Eye contact is important. Also thank them for inviting you. If your host is in a group of people, greet him or her first.

Greet people you meet with a handshake and, again, introduce yourself if you don’t know them – try to add context, e.g. “Hi, I’m Jack, I work with Max at (company name) – people will immediately be able to see where you fit among the attendees and remember your name.

If you’re hands are full, or if you’re greeting the person next to you after the event has begun, a nod and smile will suffice.

  • Introductions

If you need to introduce people to each other, you need to do so according to a certain protocol or order of status. Always introduce lower rankings to higher rankings. This would work as follows:

“Judge Finch, may I introduce/please meet/allow me to introduce to you Mr and Mrs Fox. Mr and Mrs Fox, please meet Judge Finch.”

 Also include titles (Dr, Prof, Judge) and name prefixes (Mr, Mrs, Miss).

  • Small talk – Do’s

Small talk isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. It can happen easily that you begin to babble from nerves or barely get a word out when meeting strangers. There’s a secret: Listen.

Strong listening skills are invaluable when it comes to meeting people. Don’t interrupt people who are talking. Listen and ask appropriate questions in the right places to show interest. Observe body language and mirror it. Be aware of your body language and make sure it is “open” – i.e. strong eye contact, stand or sit up straight, keep your shoulders back and relaxed, and don’t cross your arms.

Prepare beforehand so that you can speak about a range of topics. If you are stumped by the topic under discussion, relax: simply listen, show interest by asking questions and you’ll learn something new! Again, do not interrupt the speaker and do not ever disagree – there is a time and place, and this isn’t it. Remain humble and do not talk about yourself all the time.

Introduce topics of mutual interest and involve everyone in the group. It should be a conversation and not a dialogue with an audience.

  • Small talk – Don’ts

There are certain topics you avoid as a rule. Never, ever talk about the following:

  • Religion
  • Politics
  • Personal finances
  • Personal health
  • Divisive topics
  • Anything that might potentially lead to an argument if one of the people in the conversation has overdone it on the complimentary drinks.

If someone else introduces one of these, steer the conversation away into safer waters. And avoid gossiping at all costs.

  • General rules

There are a few other unwritten social rules (also known as common sense) that you need to follow:

  • Notify the host of dietary restrictions before the event, preferably as soon as you receive the invitation.
  • Show good manners – open doors, allow others to be seated first, hold the chair for women, wait until everyone is served before eating, and show your companions respect.
  • Switch your cellphone to silent, and if you absolutely must make or take a call, do so away from people, with the minimum disruption.
  • Know your basic dinner table service etiquette (we’ll have a blog about that next week).
  • Allow the event host to make the first toast.
  • Never drink more than two alcoholic drinks – you also do not want to be that
  • Do your homework and research the event topic (if applicable) and venue before arriving.
  • Before you leave, thank the host in person for inviting you and for the splendid event.
  • Don’t be the last to leave.
  • Send a “thank you” note to the host or organiser of the event within a week.

These golden rules of etiquette at functions, formal, personal or corporate, will have you sailing off into the Sunset of Success in no time.

From corporate dinners to wondrous weddings, UP A TONE Events will cover every aspect of your event and take care of all the details, so that you can focus on what really matters: your guests. Contact us today to find a one-stop solution for your event.