Michelle and her husband, Dan, planned to attend their uplineís holiday party. It was their first year attending, and they were looking forward to making the best impression.

Unfortunately, they made some poor choices...

First, they didnít RSVP. The host was forced to bring in additional seating to accommodate them.

Next, instead of selecting a Networking Times Holiday Gift they decided to bring a bottle of wine; however, they didnít realize that the host and his wife abstained due to their religious beliefs.

At the end of the evening, Dan ended up having too much to drink, and accidentally spilled red wine on the carpet. This further damaged Michelle and Danís reputation with their business associates.

The key to success when attending any business function, event or party is preparation and planning. A Holiday party may be the ideal opportunity to meet someone who can help you in your business, so take advantage.

Here are some simple etiquette guidelines to follow:

Attending business parties: Yes, you should attend. At least make an appearance and find the host or hostess as soon as possible to extend your thanks for the invitation. Donít make an obvious exit, but try and work the room as much as possible before you leave. Never tell anyone youíre leaving because you have another party to attend. It will give the impression the other party is better and you are only here because you need to make an appearance.

The best rule for attending is to arrive on time or within 15 minutes of the designated start time. Your host may have announcements or food presentations scheduled throughout the evening, which would be geared around the starting and ending time of the event. You donít have to be the first to arrive and you donít want to be the last to leave. Gauge your time to fit the activities and the size of the crowd. If the crowd is larger, it is much easier to depart without notice. But if it is an intimate dinner or party, you may be required to remain for most of the evening.

Donít talk only about business: If you are at a neighborís home for their annual pool soiree, donít come with a car full of portfolios or brochures. Parties are networking opportunities, so leave it at that. You can approach someone to set up a future meeting and exchange business cards, but leave the brochures and proposals at the office. Before the party, prepare by reading the newspaper or watching the news. Be familiar with the events calendar of your city. Youíll always have something to talk about if you stay in-the-know. If youíre on the shy side, just remember to ask questions. People love to answer questions about their families, work, hobbies, etc.

Food and alcohol: When you attend a function in a person's home or even in a restaurant as a guest, the food may be free but itís not your last meal. Drink and eat moderately. Consuming food and drink from the time you arrive until you leave may be the last time you are invited. You can partake in both, but the key is moderation. Your time should be spent mingling with guests. It can be difficult to carry on a conversation with a prospective client or the president of your company when you have a drink in one hand and a plate of food in the other. Mingle and then ask a client or the person you just met to join you for a drink or some food.

Gifts for parties: You should always bring a gift when invited to someone's home for the holidays, or any time of the year. The exception to this rule is when you have a get- together every week or monthly. Bring something that you know the host and hostess would enjoy. If you are not familiar with their home or dťcor, then stay on the safe side with candles or a small non-personal gift. If you do present them with wine, make sure they drink alcohol and don't expect them to open the bottle of wine immediately. Food is always good to either complement their presentation or to be enjoyed after the party.

Business Gift giving: The holidays can be tricky with gift giving and various celebrations and religious beliefs. Who do you give a gift, how much do you spend, what happens if you receive a gift and do not have one in return?
  1. Do you give your upline a gift? Not necessarily. It becomes a contest of who gave what and how much did they spend. When the upline gives gifts to their associates, it is not necessary to reciprocate. A nice card showing your appreciation is always welcome or give something homemade, such as cookies or artwork. Another nice gesture is getting your co-workers together on a gift.
  2. Be respective of traditions and religious believes. It does not mean you have to exclude people from holiday parties and gift giving, but give them the option to participate. Office festivities and holiday cards should state "Happy Holidays," "Holiday Greetings,"" or "The Best for the Season."
  3. Always personalize your holiday cards. If your company name is embossed or printed at the bottom of the card, a signed name or names should still apply. If possible, handwrite the address instead of using labels and use holiday stamps, instead of the meter.
  4. Have a few gifts in reserve. A gift certificate to the local bookstore could come in handy; a few candles in gift bags could save you an embarrassing moment. If you receive a gift with nothing to give in exchange, do not apologize for not having a gift; just be extremely appreciative and follow-up with a nice thank-you note.
Client gift giving: Be careful in your gift giving to clients. Your intention should be a gift they will enjoy and appreciate, not a lavish or outrageous gift that will ďoutdoĒ the competition. Check with the clientís assistant for their likes and dislikes. Certificates to a nice restaurant or bookstore, or their favorite shop, are very appropriate and enjoyable.

Thank-you notes: When you receive a gift or are invited to a party, a thank-you note should be sent the next day, or at least within a week. The handwritten note only needs to be a few lines thanking them for the specific gift or invitation. Do not include a company brochure or any other pieces of printed material. It is a thank-you note and not a ploy to get more business.

Always be on your best behavior, no matter what the situation. By remembering the proper ways to dress and socialize, you may be doing more than just building your contacts. You could be making some of the most important connections of your career at the next event or party you attend!