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At some point in your career, you’re going to attend a work event that’s outside of normal business hours. They actually happen more often than you think! This week, I had both a luncheon and a cocktail hour/dinner on the same day. I never thought I would have a job where I have to attend these events, let alone two in one day! Even if you don’t think you’ll be encountering work events in your career, you need to be prepared anyway. Here are some do’s and don’ts of attending a work event.

Do: Be Polite to Waitstaff

I worked in retail and the service industry for years. Waitstaff have to put up with a lot. Their job is stressful, fast-paced, and exhausting. Keep this in mind the next time your food isn’t the greatest, or you don’t get your drink as fast as you want. In the dating world, I watch how a man treats the waitstaff, because it’s usually an indicator of his general behavior. It works the same way at business lunches or dinners. If you’re rude to the waitstaff, someone will take notice, whether you’re the boss or the intern.

Be nice to waitstaff. They have a difficult job.

Don’t: Show Up Too Hungry

When eating at a work event, you want to achieve the perfect medium between over- and under-eating. Don’t eat a full meal before, but don’t be ready to gorge yourself either. The focus should be on networking and whatever the event’s purpose is, not on the food. If you’re a picky eater, then definitely eat at least a small snack beforehand! The last thing you want is your stomach growling. In addition, make sure you’re familiar with dining etiquette. During my first business luncheon, I was frantically googling which fork at the place setting was considered the salad fork!

Make sure you’re well-versed in table etiquette.

Do: Know Who is in Attendance

Perhaps one of the biggest lessons I had to learn at work events is to research who will be present beforehand. Not only does it make you look knowledgeable, it helps you with networking. Instead of blindly sorting through groups of people to see if there’s anyone worth knowing, picking a few people you want to speak to gives you a purpose.

It’s time to accept that you’ll need to socialize, and set yourself up for success!

Don’t: Forget to Follow Up

If you have conversations with someone of interest, follow up! Many make the mistake of not reaching out to connections they made at an event. A network of contacts is crucial! You never know who you might need a favor from, and every contact has valuable information and resources at their disposal that they can share with you.

Business events like luncheons and dinners can be scary. But they don’t have to be. If you just do your research, and maintain good etiquette, you’ll have a great opportunity with lots of benefits.

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