Event Planning and Production

LBD Meets Coworkers: 10 Tips on Surviving the Office Holiday Party

Posted by on Dec 8, 2014 | 0 comments

Mixing Christmas and the OfficeWe’ve all been there. The dreaded company holiday party. Where Judy (think tailored beige suits and no makeup) suddenly transforms at the part-AY into Jud-AY in a very LBD (little black dress), 4 inch stilettos, 1-inch eyelashes, and sparkling foundation, and where Paul (think office nerd with horn-rimmed glasses) shows up in a beautifully tailored European suit with slicked back hair and dreamy eyes. Who knew!?

Don’t panic! There is a way to maneuver through the packed room of glitz and champagne without losing your sanity. And  I couldn’t have said it better, so please enjoy this blog entry originally posted at hitchedmag.com. This blog post was written by Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert.

 10 Tips On Surviving the Office Holiday Party

Making conversation is the key to shining like a sparkly star at the office party. Chatting only with your spouse or your buddies from your department will earn you a lump of coal for a missed opportunity.

When you are stepping outside of your comfort zone and talking with people, you don’t see often or know very well, the art of conversation takes a little preparation. Here are a few tips to get ready for the office party or any other event where you’re mingling with a mixed crowd:

1. Show genuine interest. Make sure you’re paying attention to the other person by nodding your head, responding with related comments and asking questions. Don’t let them see that you are really studying how fast the buffet line is moving and counting the shrimp in the dwindling shrimp bowl.

2. Be aware of what your body language is saying. Face the person you’re talking to, slightly lean in and make eye contact. Use your facial expressions to show you are involved in the conversation. If your toes and hips are pointing away, it sends the message that you are planning your escape. 

3. Do your homework. Good conversation requires a little forethought. Have a few topics up your sleeve, avoiding politics, religion, office gossip or anything depressing. Sports, movies, food and plans for the holidays are good alternatives. It’s easy to make conversation with people you see every day—your job is to mix and mingle with those whom you are less familiar. 

4. Listen. If it were easy to follow this rule, we’d all be brilliant conversationalists. Many of us are so busy talking about ourselves—or thinking about what we’re going to say next while the other person is talking—that we fail to engage in real conversation. How many times have you been in a conversation where someone asked the same question that was just answered only minutes earlier? A good rule of thumb: Listen 60 percent of the time and ask questions the other 40 percent. 

5. Ask questions. Being a great conversationalist is not all about spewing an endless stream of stories or witticisms to amuse an audience. A question shows the other person you are interested in what they have to say and, ideally, they will answer your question and then ask a question in return. This “discovery” phase will hopefully lead to a common area of interest for you both to explore further and voila, a bond is forged. If you know a little something about the person—for example, if they have kids—start there. “How old are they? How is school going for them? Are they in any sports or activities? What are the hot toys for Christmas this year?” 

6. Team up with your spouse. While you shouldn’t stick to your spouse like glue, don’t abandon your spouse to fend for him or herself at the office party, especially if he or she doesn’t know anyone from your office very well. Work together. For example, if your husband is a football fan and you’re not, he can help break the ice with a fellow fan. Always introduce him to whomever you’re speaking with and include him in your conversation even if you have to bring him up to speed. 

7. Practice the art of excusing yourself from a monologue. We all know people who spout off at length on random topics, ignoring all signs of discomfort in others. If you’ve been trapped in the corner for 10 minutes listening to a guest drone on and on, jump in when the rambler takes a breath, “Well, you certainly know a lot about the company’s servers” or, “Sounds like you’ve really turned a corner with that lactose intolerance issue;” immediately followed by, “If you’ll excuse me I think I need to freshen my drink… nice chatting with you. Enjoy the rest of the party!” After freshening your drink, head for the other side of the room and strike up a new conversation with someone else. 

8. Do talk about the holidays. The fact that this is a holiday party lends itself to all kinds of discussion topics. “Are you traveling for the holidays?” “Have you done any holiday shopping/decorating yet?” “Do you know a good place to see Christmas lights this year?” 

9. Don’t talk about work. This is not the venue to complete a project or plan a client meeting for the following week. It is okay to mention upbeat news briefly, “Hey, I heard we had record sales last month!” but the holiday party is not the time to try to analyze departmental efficiencies. It’s definitely not the time or place to gripe about anything or anyone from work. 

10. Say thanks. Before leaving, be sure to thank both your boss and those who planned the party. And remember to thank your spouse for coming with you and being such a good sport throughout the evening. 

Remember that the festive atmosphere of the holiday party creates a great environment to connect with coworkers you’d like to get to know better. The ability to engage in conversation with a wide variety of people is a skill that will serve you well not only at the office holiday party, but throughout your career. 

Diane Gottsman, a nationally recognized etiquette expert, is the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in etiquette training for corporations, universities and individuals, striving to polish their interpersonal skills. You can reach Diane at 877-490-1077 or www.protocolschooloftexas.com. You can also follow her on Twitter @:www.twitter.com/DianeGottsman.

Read More

7 Lessons Learned (Because I Failed)

Posted by on Jun 8, 2014 | 0 comments

Recently I’ve been on a speaking binge. I’m not sure why the flurry of activity, but within the past few months I’ve received invitations to speak at several national, state and local conferences and to a variety of nonprofit organizations.  I’ve enjoyed each opportunity to share my thoughts and meet new friends. I’ve been especially grateful for the excellent references and reviews I’ve consistently received from the groups I’ve been speaking to. It’s been a confidence-inspiring whirlwind of activity.

Until yesterday.

Yesterday I failed.  It was a comedy of errors from beginning to end, but it wasn’t really funny.

My presentation fell flat. It was disjointed and probably confusing to the audience. It’s a wonder they didn’t ask me what I was talking about.  Following the presentation, I couldn’t remember anything I said.

This experience has taught me seven important lessons to remember if you find yourself speaking to a group:

  1. Arrive 30 minutes early.
  2. Preparation cannot be underestimated.
  3. Know your venue.
  4. Never assume.
  5. Anticipate what might go wrong.
  6. Punting is OK.
  7. Say “No” When Your Gut Tells You To
  8. Sleep the night before, no matter what.
I learned these seven important lessons the hard way. I failed on every one of them. Considering my speaking experience, there was and is no excuse for the comedy of errors, and more importantly, that I didn’t rebound well once they happened.
I learned these seven important lessons because I made these seven critical mistakes (and I knew better!):
  1. I arrived early, but not as early as I should have. A few extra minutes would have given me time to gather my thoughts, reorganize my notes and give a logical presentation.
  2. My preparation time was cut short. I managed a lot of non-essential tasks during the week prior to yesterday’s event: I should have spent that “free time” fine tuning my presentation and visiting the venue.
  3. I had not visited the venue prior to speaking: knowing the room set up helps prepare you to stand in front of your audience.
  4. I assumed there would be a podium – there was not. This was a first, but it’s now a question I will always ask: “Is there a podium?”
  5. And although I had asked for a projector and screen, I had not anticipated a lack of connection chords, the inability to connect to my MacBookPro, and I most certainly did not anticipate the sudden SNAP of the screen as it tore from the frame and flopped to the floor just before my presentation. I mean, who would EVER anticipate that? (The organizers actually tried to flop the screen over the top of the screen’s frame and for a few minutes my PowerPoint was beamed onto the flopping, buckled screen until my OCD took over and I asked them to turn it off).
  6. My presentation was tightly linked to the PowerPoint slides, and I attempted to give the same presentation without the slides…not smart. What I should have done was reorganized in my mind and hit the high points unscripted and without the crutch of slides. I probably could have done that if I had been better prepared.
  7. This was a very short notice request by someone I know and respect. I said “yes” when my gut was telling me to say “no”. I knew my time was tight and preparation would be tough.
  8. I only had 3 hours sleep the night before the presentation. I was exhausted, which undoubtedly added to my inability to rebound as I normally can.
Failure isn’t fun under any circumstances, but if we can learn from our mistakes, failure can become a springboard to greater success in the future. Remember the saying: When you fail to plan, you plan to fail. I resembled that remark yesterday.
Read More

Do Be Do Be Do

Posted by on Oct 25, 2013 | 0 comments

I am underwhelmed by a lot of things, including my own organizational abilities at times. But today I am overwhelmed with the to-do list that greeted me so cheerfully this morning with multiple beeps and toots from my MacBook and iPhone. I wanted to holler – “I surrender, you win!! May the sound cloud in the great internet void beep forever, but please PLEASE leave me alone!”

To do lists save me. They are also my worst enemy. I love them and hate them. I follow them and ignore them. I create them and then redo them.

My name is Jean and I am a listmaker. “To do or not to do” that is my question. Daily. Hourly.

And there you have it. I can make lists like no one else. Getting them done is another thing altogether.

What IS it about a list that makes me, a) feel organized, and b) feel overwhelmed, and on occasion, c) feel satisfied? A list, to me, is everything and nothing. It gives me direction (which I often don’t follow). It outlines a plan (which I typically rearrange). It provides structure (which I reject). And there is the crux of the problem…I reject structure.

Lists are structure in outline form. They guide us to a goal (which is probably identified on yet another list). Lists help us prioritize the multitude of lists we have in our minds and on paper and online.

Lists and more lists. They may be the death of me, and that’s simply not an option….soooooo…..

I have come up with the following solution: I have a single list that I work from. It happens to sync between my iPhone and my computer, and I can print it out if I choose. It allows me to check off what’s accomplished, push a task back on the calendar that I can’t get to as hoped, and beeps me everyday (once) to remind me that I have a list.

This list has helped me tremendously. I used to sub-list my lists…you know, school, church, home, business…but now I simply use one list for everything. If I have a dental appointment and need to take information with me, it’s on my list for that day, which might very well be the same day I have a grant proposal due, and a lunch date with an old friend, along with a manicure, and a conference call with a client. EVERYTHING is on the same list.

There are a lot of apps online that do all these wonderful things, and I have used several, I think you have to try them out until you find the one you like best. My favorite was using TASKS on Google Calendar before I bought the Mac…it was simple, showed on my calendar and I liked it.

HOWEVER, since I’ve had my Mac, I’ve realized that there are better, more inclusive apps available…and so I made a list of them. And I searched for a list as well, and found several. If you want to check them out see the list of lists below.

List # 1. 

List # 2.

List # 3. 

List #4.

My go-to list maker for a long time was the simple REMINDERS app. It worked for me. Not too complicated, not too simple. I can schedule by date and time, add recurring dates, edit, alter, move, delete and check off as I so desire. That’s my kind of list.

And then I found AWESOME NOTE (aNote) and my life changed forever. It syncs with Evergreen, my calendar, my Reminders list, my Notes, my – well, you name it, it probably syncs. I don’t know what I would do without it. I can add travel notes (which I used to keep in Notes), journal entries (which I would scribble onto a calendar near my desk), and anything and everything. If you really want to organize your life, I highly recommend aNote. Claim your life back. Dominate the beeps and toots. Take control, and do it with  a good to-do list management system

Now that should give you something to add to your to do list!

As for me…well, Do be do be do!

Read More

What’s Really Important

Posted by on Mar 2, 2012 | 0 comments

If today had been the most successful fundraising day of my three decade career, it wouldn’t have changed my understanding of what’s really important.

These past few days our family has been vigilantly monitoring the health of my sweet granddaughter who is very sick with metapneumovirus (similar to RSV). She’s in the ICU as this is posted, but her symptoms are improving and our prayers continue.

Every day of our lives we have choices and responsibilities. Every day we focus on our to-do lists, we sometimes enter our offices and effectively attempt to shut out the world and personal life, but no matter how busy, how important, how many deadlines we have, we should never forget what’s really important.

Whether fundraising as a professional, managing a business, planning an event, or simply living our day-to-day life, we can not afford to forget what’s really important, and for me what’s really important is family, friends, health and faith.

Those of us who work with amazing mission-focused nonprofit organizations have the opportunity to focus our time on important causes as part of our daily life. It’s a near-perfect world when we are able to appropriately balance our time, focus and passion between our worthy causes and those personal things that are really important.

When I forget to remember these things, I find that succeeding in my daily responsibilities and goals becomes much more difficult and much less rewarding. It’s a lesson I learned later in life than I would like to admit, so I’m sharing it here to possibly touch someone who may have lost site of what’s really important.

Do your job, set your priorities, focus as you need to, and excel at what you do, but never, ever, ever forget what and who is really important.

“No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”  

~ David O. McKay

Read More

A Fresh Look at Event Planning

Posted by on Feb 20, 2012 | 0 comments

This blog post lists 10 Event Trends for 2012. From flash mobs, to meetups, to the unconference. Julius Solaris of eventmanagerblog.com has it covered.

Enjoy!

Read More