Q. I have been asked by my boss to attend a charity event gala. My boss will be there and we are bringing customers. What do I need to do – and not do to make sure all goes well?
A. Congratulations on being invited to socialize as part of your job. Many people are thrilled to attend sporting events, charity dinners, auctions and galas as part of their corporate responsibilities; others are just as happy to be left off that list. Either way, knowing the role you are playing and being comfortable with the responsibilities is key to a successful outing.
Discuss the event with your boss and ask what to expect. What would he or she like from you? What are potential issues you might face? Are there customer conversations he or she wants to have or should you avoid work conversations entirely? Research other attendees so you can initiate conversations.
Remember that this is a work event. You are representing the company, your boss and want to display a high level of professionalism. While you will want to have fun, that really isn’t the primary function for the your participation in the event.
Make sure you are dressed appropriately. Look at pictures of last year’s event online if they are available. Ask your boss what the right attire is. You don’t want to be in a blazer and slacks if the attire is suit and tie and you shouldn’t be sporting a Yankees hat at a Fenway event your company is hosting.
Bring cash. You may need to tip event staff for yourself or your customers. Be prepared so you don’t stumble and feel awkward or put your boss or customers in an uncomfortable position.
Act as a host. Even if the event is new to you, make sure to pay attention to the customers and make the time effortless for them. Introduce them to others at the table and anyone else you meet; offer to check their coat and get them a drink. You want to make sure you are attentive to their needs and they seem to be having an enjoyable time.
Limit alcohol. Take your cue from your boss, and drink less. Don’t order bottles of wine unless your boss suggests it and if others do, be agreeable to their choice. Do not showcase your expertise on wine, liquor or beer unless that is the purpose of the event. Offer to go to the bar or the concession stand to get drinks, hot dogs and whatever is appropriate for the event for your customers and boss. Never comment on what someone is or is not drinking.
Participate. Cheer, clap, mingle, dance and ask others to dance. Your job is to be considered a great colleague, business partner and to be viewed as a friendly, considerate person from a great company.
-Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners