Organising corporate cocktails to mark a special event is an excellent way of bringing together staff, partners and VIP clients. However, arranging a function on this scale requires a great deal of preparation. From choosing the event space to the caterer, not to mention the guests, everything needs to be meticulously planned in order to ensure a pleasant and fruitful gathering.

What’s more, receiving an invite to a business cocktail party does not always provoke great delight, as contrary to appearances, people struggle to relax at this type of event. This is understandable, as they feel their every move is being observed. If they make the slightest faux pas, they risk becoming the laughing stock of the office…

So, employers and employees alike: if you want to make the right impression at your next corporate cocktail event, just follow our guide!

Top tips for organisers

Choose the right type of event

There are three types of cocktail gatherings:

  • aperitif cocktails are served either mid-morning or late afternoon;
  • the cocktail lunch is served between midday and 2pm;
  • the cocktail buffet replaces dinner and is served from 6pm.

As you’ll have realised, the choice of cocktail format will depend on the time of day, but also on the purpose of the event. Aperitif cocktails will last no more than an hour and a half and so are ideally suited to informal events such as after-work or speed meetings, while the other two catering options are much more sociable, will last longer than 1.5 hours and fit better into the context of a seminar, a conference or a celebration (the company’s 10th anniversary, a colleague’s promotion, etc.).

Work out the number of attendees

It’s essential to work out roughly how many guests there will be so that you can hire the right function room – somewhere that’s not too small or too big. Don’t hesitate to choose an unusual venue, as this will give your event a less formal feel. There are several spaces that are sure to fit the bill perfectly, especially in large or medium-sized cities such as LondonManchester, or Birmingham.

No-nos for organisers

Having a cocktail party for a small group

You risk coming across as a cheapskate because, in practical and economical terms, this type of event is best suited to groups of over 50 people. If your numbers are coming up short, you’d be better off arranging a sit-down dinner for your guests.

Serving unsuitable food

As your guests will be eating standing up, they won’t be able to use cutlery. This means that you need to offer them easy-to-eat, non-drip items, such as sweet and savoury nibbles, canapés, and other finger foods.

Not having enough appetizers

It goes without saying that this situation could harm your company’s image. On average, you should allow 6 to 16 items per person for aperitif cocktails and over 20 per person for cocktail lunches or buffets.

Not having enough variety

Imagine a table with nothing on it but smoked salmon canapés…your business cocktail event needs to be a real feast, as much for the eyes as for the palate. It’s therefore important to vary the flavours and the presentation of the items, including bagels, brochettes, canapés, vol-au-vents, pastries, verrines, etc.

Forgetting to provide tables

Just because your guests are standing and not using cutlery, it doesn’t mean they don’t need anything. It’s important to provide them with high tables where they can put down their drinks and other personal clutter (smartphones, tablets, purse, etc.).

Top tips for guests

Always RSVP

A company that sends you an invitation by e-mail or by post does so for two reasons: to inform you that your presence is expected, but above all to be able to tally up the number of guests at their business event. So don’t forget to reply to the invitation as early as possible.

Wear the right clothes

In other words, a smart suit and tie for men, and a dress or trousers for women. Wearing high-street fashion is fine if you’re not the type to wear a designer little black dress, as long as your outfit has a formal look.

Be on time

The fact that it’s a chance to relax doesn’t mean you can just turn up any time you like. If the function starts at 18:00, don’t arrive at 18:30. By being punctual, you’re showing that you consider the event to be important, but also that you are serious and professional in all circumstances.

Introduce yourself formally

If you need to meet a new supplier or client, introduce yourself in a formal manner, and with a handshake. And don’t forget the rules of etiquette: ladies should be introduced first and younger people before older ones, unless the younger person occupies a higher post.

Pay attention during discussions

When you’re talking with someone, look them in the eyes and show that you’re interested in what they have to say. Also, don’t bring up unpleasant subjects or engage in gossip.

No-nos for guests

Making a beeline for the buffet…

If you get stuck into the snacks straight away, you risk making a (very) bad impression…so even if you’ve skipped breakfast, don’t show it! Fill your plate to a reasonable extent and move away. Our tip: have a light meal before heading to the event, so you won’t be tempted to fill yourself up there.

…or to the bar

Better safe than sorry: steer clear of the bar (especially if you have a tendency to get carried away), to avoid ending up in an embarrassing situation.

Playing with your phone

Once again, the corporate cocktail party is, first and foremost, a business event. So if you wouldn’t dare send a text or check your Facebook or Twitter timeline in the meeting room at work, don’t do it during company cocktails. You may not realise it, but your little old smartphone prevents you from communicating with those around you, so put it on silent or, better still, switch it off.