It’s the time of year for Christmas soirees, work events and spending time with friends. So how can you ensure you’re the life and soul of the party and at the top of the guest list for the next bash? Outlet spoke to events extraordinaire and PR star Sara Robinson to bring you all the knowledge you need.
Whether it’s a fabulous drinks soiree, New Year’s Eve party or a low-key Christmas lunch, it’s easy to think all the hard work is left to the host. In reality, being an amazing party guest can be equally as trying (and tiring) as hosting. It takes commitment, planning, social awareness, good taste and a great line of conversation to be the type of person that gets invited back time and again.
It’s polite to respond as soon as humanly possible to an invitation. You may be swamped with invitations and events over Christmas and New Year’s, but for every host it’s their one big night of the festive season. So let them know whether you can make it, either way. If the invitation arrives in your email inbox, a prompt reply using the same method is acceptable. If it arrives on your doormat, however, only a smart, beautifully written note will do.
Dress to impress
If you’re lucky, your host will have specified a dress code or theme. If no dress code is mentioned, a good rule of thumb is to dress as you would for a first date or smart dinner with a friend or partner. If in doubt, simply make an effort.
What to take
Although the good guest always asks in advance whether they can bring anything specific, the polite response from the host is usually “just yourself!”. Roughly translated, this is code for bring a bottle of something drinkable. Don’t be offended if your bottle isn’t actually consumed at the party, as this is actually polite on their part and the host may well have carefully selected wines to accompany the food or canapés. Flowers may seem a good idea, but bear in mind your busy host might not want to be flower arranging while slaving over a hot stove - a beautiful potted plant is a great alternative. If you really want to impress, why not send a bottle of something bubbly ahead of the event with a note saying how much you're looking forward to it?
It’s about time for your arrival
Often it will depend on the type of party you are attending just what time you should arrive. For a dinner, obviously being as punctual as possible is polite. For other soirees, being casually late by anything up to an hour is fine. Feel free to text your host earlier in the day to let them know what time you might get there.
Be the life and soul
A good party is all about good conversation. Do not be tempted, however, to turn the evening into a personal stand-up gig or engage in loud banter. Conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking, so hogging the limelight is a big no-no. Take an interest in other guests and their lives, which will help you keep the chitchat following effortlessly. As others arrive or join your group, it can be helpful to spot common interests and include others in conversations. Keep a couple of anecdotes up your sleeve for when the evening starts to warm up or if, god forbid, there are any uncomfortable silences. Always stand up straight, make eye contact, show an interest and other guests will flock to you.
What not to do
These may seem obvious, but you would be surprised how often simple rules are contravened. So, don’t get drunk, don’t take your shirt (or trousers!) off, and don’t blatantly attempt to pull – save that for the rugby club’s annual dinner.
When to leave
A good guest never outstays their welcome. Don’t lounge around quaffing the last of the booze if your hosts are struggling to keep their eyes open. While it’s good form to offer to help with the clearing up, be sure to make your excuses at the first sign of a yawn.
The morning after
There really is no better way to express your gratitude than with a hand-written thank you card. Depending on how much effort your host went to, a phone call or an email might cut the mustard. However and whenever you decide to thank them, shower your host with compliments – a sure fire way to ensure you’re on the guest list next time.
Sara Robinson is managing director of Cake Communications, a communications agency based in London and Cardiff. A decade in PR has seen her organise many a launch event and drinks party. Go to cakecommunications.co.uk for info or follow on Twitter @sararobinson81 @cakecomms