The silly season is upon us and with that comes the end of year office party –a big deal at any firm and one that you’re expected to attend.

We all know the general rules around office parties – don’t get drunk/ dance on the table/ make out with your boss or colleagues.

That said, the office year end party isn’t just a time where you need to be on your best behaviour, it’s also a great place to network and get to know your colleagues and managers in a more relaxed environment. Here are some tips to take make the most of the occasion and wake up feeling like a winner the morning after.

For starters, think carefully about whether there are any specific people you would like to connect with at the event. Once you have decided who is on the list, a quick perusal of their LinkedIn or Twitter pages may give you some insight into their interests and achievements, and provide you with some good, open ended ways to start the conversation. Think of topics along the lines of: ‘I’ve read that you attended this university; I recently started to follow your blog; that you come from Durban’ etc. – these are all comments that show you’re interested in them and get the conversational rolling.

That said, remember that it’s a party and people like to play social butterfly and move from group to group, chatting. Be mindful of monopolising someone for too long and look out for non- verbal indications that they’re keen to move on – they may be looking around the room instead of at you, looking at their watches, stop contributing to the conversation and giving one word answers. If this is the case, tell them how lovely it was to talk to them and let them move on.

At the same time, you may also feel that you’re starting to feel a bit trapped and want to politely extricate yourself, without being rude. Some good ways to exit gracefully would be to tell the person you have monopolised their time too much and must leave them to chat to other people; or that you’ll leave them to mingle.

While you have the attention of the co-workers you would like to talk to, there are a host of questions you can ask them to keep the conversation going: how did they get started in the industry (everyone likes to share their journey to success); the most important things they have learned along the way; advice they would give to colleagues starting out and what they love about their jobs.

And remember that even though it’s a work function, it’s ok to steer the conversation in a more personal direction, provided you stay away from topics that are awkward or taboo – remember the old adage about never talking religion or politics. That said, it’s perfectly acceptable to ask people about their holiday plans, children, favourite travel destinations and books or movies they would recommend – after all, you’re all there to enjoy yourselves. 

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