You’re at a lovely cocktail party, but instead of enjoying the food and company, you’re stressed out because you think you should have brought a hostess gift, you’re starving but you can’t juggle the plate while still holding your glass of wine, and you can’t get away from the woman incessantly talking about her miniature poodles.

You are not alone. Many people want to know the specific “do’s” and don’ts” of cocktail party etiquette so that they can make a great first and lasting impression, network, and build relationships.


Arrive With Style

First impressions do matter. When entering a cocktail party, event, or even business meeting:

  • Put your cell phone away (turn down volume too) so that you look confident and ready to meet and greet.
  • Smile and walk in with calm and confidence even if you’re late.
  • Bring a hostess gift if the party is being held in someone’s home.
  • Place your nametag on the right side so that when you’re shaking hands, someone can look up your arm and read the tag.
  • Before you even attend the event, make sure you’re wearing something appropriate if the attire is casual, business casual, or formal. It’s okay to ask the host.

Mix and Mingle with Finesse

The first person you should try to talk with is the host and thank him/her for inviting you. Then…

  • Grab a drink OR something to eat, but not both at the same time as they are hard to juggle and shake hands when greeting people. Best option is to eat before you go so you’re not ravenous and attack the food. Always hold your drink in your left hand so that it’s not cold and wet when you go to shake someone’s hand.
  • If you’re feeling a little shy, first find someone you know to talk with until you feel a little more at ease. Cocktail parties are excellent opportunities for networking and for meeting new people so do your best to chat with as many people as you can. In fact, you really shouldn’t talk to only your close friends or your date the whole evening. Branch out and look for those who might be standing by themselves or looking a little out of place. If you’re the one who’s standing alone, find the host and surely she/he will introduce you to others.
  • Walk up to new people and give them a strong handshake, smile, and introduce yourself with your full name and connection to the host, such as “Hi, I’m Aimee Symington. I’m Cathy’s neighbor.” To remember someone’s name, use it often during your conversation. This is especially important to do  if you don’t know many people at the party.
  • Ask questions of other people to make polite conversation. Truly listen by giving them eye contact and avoid looking around the room for the next person you want to talk to.
  • When you’re ready to move from one person to another, you can politely say something like, “It has been so nice talking with you and I’ve enjoyed hearing about your adorable miniature poodles.” Shake hands and say good-bye.


Get Invited Back

After the cocktail party, always remember to:

  • Thank the host as you are leaving. It’s never a good idea to just sneak out.
  • The next day, either call, email or text the host to thank him/her for inviting you to the party. If you really want to make a good impression, mail the host a hand-written thank-you note.

For more cocktail party etiquette tips, watch Aimee’s TV segment on Charlotte Today HEREFor more etiquette tips for adults and children, please visit her website at Connect on Facebook.