Gentlemen, ditch the power tie and wingtips; ladies, lose the power suit and pumps. It’s time to slip into summertime-casual. The outfits may be less formal, but you still need to be on your toes, so be sure to bring your A game to the summer social scene. This is where high-level business relationships are formed and developed. Jacqueline Whitmore, international etiquette expert and founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach, and Marty Bauman, public relations guru for high-end equestrian events like the Hampton Classic, offer their best suggestions to help put you—and your guests—at ease all summer long.
1. Get some social intel. “Learn a little bit about who’s attending your event,” says Whitmore. “Find out what you and your guests might have in common and keep a couple of conversational topics at hand. Perhaps one guest lives in the same community you do, or has a child enrolled at the school your child attends. When you can chat comfortably about non-business topics you’ll put them right at ease.”
2. Coach any special guests in advance. “If you have a special guest coming to the function, brief them in advance and encourage them to mention your company by name if they’re going to entertain or speak publicly,” says Bauman. “At the Hampton Classic, for example, we often have Olympic riders visiting our sponsor’s chalet“ for post-event socializing. “As the sponsor, you might chat with this guest in advance” so he or she can mention your company’s name meaningfully in their remarks.
3. This reminds me of a story… “Prepare a few lighthearted stories to tell,” Whitmore suggests. “These should be short and perhaps humorous, but never off-color or political. Keep them brief and light. Everybody loves a good story.”
4. Turn off your cell phone. She also reminds people to “Put the phone away. Keep it off the table. Nobody who might call that moment should distract you from paying attention to your guests.”
5. Set service expectations. Bauman encourages everyone to “Meet the heads of the service teams who will staff your event. Introduce yourself to the head of the catering team, for example, and give them a feeling for the kind of hospitality you offer your guests.”
6. From the desk of… Whitmore suggests that hosts “follow up with hand-written notes the next day. Paper and pen is much better than email. If you mentioned a great restaurant in someone’s neighborhood, look up the restaurant’s address and write it down for them.”
7. Brand. Brand. Brand. “Brand as much as you can” without going overboard, says Bauman. “Get signage featuring your corporate logo. Print your company’s name on cocktail napkins. Even the mints should have your logo.”
Perhaps the most important tip of all: Mingle. “Just go up and talk to people, don’t wait for them to come to you,” says Whitmore. “Find someone to introduce you. If you can’t find someone to do that, go stick your hand out and say hello and your name.”