Although this time of year is usually associated with holiday cheer and enjoyment, there are certain things that actually cause fear in people, one of which being the office holiday party. We have all heard the horror stories of holiday parties gone wrong and even wrote a helpful guide of “do’s and don’ts” to consider before your company party. Because of this, an event typically reserved for celebrating the holiday season and year that was has become one that people dread.

Depending on the size of your company, the annual holiday party can be anything from a casual get together after work, or a full-scale event at a rented-out venue. Along the same lines, if your company is small, you likely know everyone who will be in attendance, including some spouses or significant others. If you work at a large company, however, the party could turn into a networking event. Depending on your level of comfort with your colleagues, the thought of networking and the small talk that comes with it could cause some to head right for the egg nog. This can be the recipe for a holiday party horror story.

While it is easy to use scare tactics to encourage employees to maintain a sense of professionalism during these events, we’ll leave the horror stories for Halloween. Instead, if you find yourself having to engage in networking, or even casual small talk, with fellow party goers, consider these conversation tips from our friends over at TopResume.

Pick A Strategic Location To Break The Ice

When you first enter the room, you are likely looking for people that you know, especially if you went to the party alone. There is usually a group of people at the food station(s) or the bar, so if you position yourself near one of these “popular” spots, you are more likely to strike up a conversation with a fellow party-goer.

Prepare Your Conversation Starters In Advance

If engaging in small talk is not your forte, having some go-to conversation starters can be helpful and even ease your nerves. One of the most common icebreakers is “So, what do you do?” While this might seem like a good idea, and a logical conversation starter, it can get old very quickly. Often times it is a quick exchange and the conversation ends shortly thereafter. Each of you say what your job title is and not much more, and the dreaded awkward silence begins.

The best conversation starters are fresh, memorable and require an answer beyond “yes” or “no.” In her TopResume article, Natalia Autenrieth offers up some different kinds of icebreakers: “Location, location, location” and “the unexpected.”

“Location, Location, Location” Examples:

These conversation starters, according to Autenrieth, are specific to where you are at that time and are easy to create on the spot. The goal of these is to open the door to an exchange, make the other person feel comfortable and connect.

  • “I’ve never been to this [hotel, bar, restaurant, etc.] before. How about you?”
  • “On a scale of 1 to 10, how is the Chardonnay?”
  • “What is your favorite appetizer so far?”
  • “Wow it’s freezing in this room!”

“The Unexpected” Examples:

These conversation starters require some thought from both the person asking the question, and the respondent. According to Autenrieth, these events can “get a little stuffy with everyone talking about the same things, so an out-of-the-ordinary question is sure to stand out.” The key for these is to know your audience and use your best judgement.

  • “What do you do for fun during the holidays?”
  • “What are you most excited about this holiday season?”
  • “If you could put a billboard anywhere in the world, what would it say?”

Getting Ready For Your Next Holiday Party

“No matter what your holiday, it’s a time to celebrate.”

Whether you’re trying to find your ugliest sweater or thinking of what to bring to the potluck, when you’re preparing for your next holiday party there are a lot of things to consider. Although not considered a typical networking event, you never know who you might meet at your company’s holiday party so you should be prepared with some conversation starters. By having somewhat of a plan, instead of winging it, you will be more comfortable to engage in conversations throughout the party.

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