Tips for cocktail party etiquette

Top 5 Dos and Don’ts for Fabulous Cocktail Party Etiquette

It’s summertime! The warm weather heats up everybody’s festive spirit and that means more after work drinks, more weekend get-togethers, and more cocktail parties. Cocktail parties are a great way to make new friends, to see old ones, and to simply have fun. They do however require a certain level of decorum and class. Otherwise you might find yourself being crossed off the next list.

Below you’ll find my list of top dos and don’ts for fabulous cocktail party etiquette.

Do Mingle With New People

You’re there to meet people. So instead of talking only with those you know, expand your comfort zone and introduce yourself to those you don’t. It’s really not as difficult as most people think. Choose somebody standing by himself or herself, or a group of three to five. Watch their body language to see if they’re open to others joining them and simply walk up and let the introductions begin.

Do Know the Purpose of the Event

Cocktail parties are often hosted by organisations for a particular cause. People who are invited to those cocktail parties are expected to arrive in support of that cause. You would not believe the amount of people who attend cocktail parties completely clueless as to why they’re there. Reading the invitation thoroughly and knowing the purpose of the event shows respect and interest, and can give you a topic from which to springboard conversations.

Don’t Gossip

Gossiping only shows a negative side of you. The focus of your conversations at cocktail events should be the person/people you’re speaking with, not the other people in the room. When you centre your conversation on the person you’re with, you make them feel special, and without much effort on your behalf they walk away loving you for it.

Don’t Pile Your Plate With Food

Consider cocktail parties to be like networking events; you are not there to eat, you are there to meet. When you walk away from the food station with a mountain of food on your plate, eating looks like it’s your number one priority. I suggest having something to eat before you go so your focus will be on the people there and not your stomach. Of course, it’s perfectly acceptable to take an hors d’oeuvre or two as the server walks by, but always choose something that can be eaten in one mouthful.

Don’t Take Everybody’s Photo

With iPhones, smartphones and all the other cell phones nowadays, it’s so easy to take pictures and videos of everything you see. Be aware though, not everybody likes their photo taken, and not everybody wants to end up on your or somebody else’s Facebook page. Respect the privacy concerns of others at cocktail parties and only take photos of those you know well, and make sure you ask them first. 

I’d love to hear from you. What is your pet peeve that you see other people doing at cocktail parties, or networking events? Leave your comments in the section below.

If you would like to read more about gossip in the office, I invite you to visit “Why Gossiping Does Not Belong in the Office” and “How to Handle Negative Office Gossip“.

About Kara

Kara Ronin is the founder of Executive Impressions. She is an executive coach who specialises in leadership presence, social skills and business etiquette. She is also the creator of Bestselling Udemy course, Business Etiquette 101. Kara’s advice and unique perspectives have been featured in Time Inc., Business Insider, Ignites Europe (a Financial Times Service), The Muse, The Local France, The West Australian, and more. Kara works regularly with lawyers, investment bankers, and finance professionals to help them build presence, authority and influence in business. Get Kara's insights delivered straight to your inbox