Business Cocktails? Social Etiquette for Confident Entrepreneurs

Here are four ways you can take on business mixers with confidence and purpose.

Despite your masterful abilities to tackle everything from product development, to apps and algorithms, it very well could be social events that have you perplexed. An industry event, or business cocktail party can feel more like a catastrophe waiting to happen when you’re expected to mingle and network all while balancing a rocks glass.

Luckily for the prepared entrepreneur, social gatherings and cocktails can be as breeze. Here are four ways you can take on business mixers with confidence and purpose:


  1. Research Before Refreshments

    Before you ever say “Hello,” to the bartender, it’s a good idea to do some preliminary research. What type of mood is this event? What types of things are the guests in attendance interested in? Picking up some relevant, industry-related anecdotes are always a good idea.

    Also, it never hurts to tuck some general fun facts in your purse or pocket. For example, most people are delighted to learn that Abe Lincoln owned and operated several taverns in his time. Next, approach a Bourbon connoisseur with the reminder that it was chosen as the United States’ official spirit… They’re called icebreakers for a reason.

    Also decide what you’ll be drinking before the event. Neat glasses of scotch give off a sense of sophistication, but not if they lead to you dancing on the bar. A beer poured in a glass or a mixed cocktail without the straw is perfectly acceptable. Also keep in mind that a club soda and lime has yet to steer a sober person wrong.

  2. Party With a Purpose

    The idea of “working the room” is an anxious-enough concept to type, let alone live out. True social butterflies don’t put this type of unnecessary pressure on themselves. Instead, they make a personal goal to meet “X” number of new people throughout the night. Three quality contacts will serve you better than fifteen shallow ones. So ease up, take a sip and relax.

    That being said, business cocktails are not the time to flock to your tried and true peers. As much as you enjoy time spent with close friends, it’s important to detach. By being more individually approachable you’ll get a chance to meet and greet new people, and then you can be the charming person that introduces a new friend to your core group.

  3. Mind Your Manners

    Dress accordingly, based on the tone of the invitation, location and event purpose; whether casual or formal keep your look clean and sharp. If you’re heading straight from the office, pack a comb and travel toothbrush to freshen up.

    Don’t arrive too late and never show up too early; the fashionably late usually clock in at the fifteen minute mark. While mingling be sure to smile and maintain eye contact to signify that you’re paying attention. Keep cocktails in your left hand to free up your right for affirming handshakes.

    Take a napkin with each passed hors d’oeuvre and when retreating to the bar, ask anyone if you can bring them a refill (for the men: minding ladies first). When conversations turn stale find an appropriate pause and politely excuse yourself. Throughout the party be respectful of the staff and always, always thank your host for the invitation.

  4. Before The Ice Melts…

    For a true networker the only thing better than surviving cocktail hour is coming out with a viable new contact. If you have a chance to peek at the guest list before business cocktails commence, seize the opportunity and perform a bit of social media recon. See if you can figure out your degrees of separation, common interests, hobbies, etc. with the person you most want to meet.

    When you meet your ideal mentor, or a key industry mover and shaker, keep your cool and keep conversations casual (i.e., only touch on the topic of work if he or she brings it up). As you meet other potential contacts throughout the night, don’t let the fear of asking for a business card hold you back. Keep a small notebook in your pocket to jot down names and companies that you can reference when the hooch haze wears off. Follow up emails were invented for the post-party, every smart entrepreneur knows that.

What social etiquette sip tips do you have? Share them in the comments section below.


Kelly Gregorio writes about entrepreneurial trends and tips while working at Advantage Capital Funds, a provider of merchant cash advances. You can read her daily business blog here.


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