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But what if your boss is pressuring you to drink? “There’s no easy answer for a boss who’s encouraging you to drink,” notes Tumlin, “but you do have options. You can get a drink and nurse it, or get a drink and say you need to say hello to someone. Or you might say that you don’t feel like drinking, either because you don’t feel well, or simply because you just don’t want to drink on this occasion.

“Avoid the person who’s had too much to drink as much as you can,” he adds. “Communication is much more unpredictable when people have had a few drinks, and there’s much more downside than upside when inhibitions are loosened in a professional setting.”

Master the exit. The graceful exit is another highly effective office party strategy. “Timely exits are great office-party tools,” Tumlin asserts. “Knowing how to extract yourself from awkward or embarrassing conversations minimizes trouble and shortens problematic interactions at the company party.”

You can tactfully break contact by excusing yourself to the food line, to the restroom, or by saying that you need to say hello to someone (your boss is often a good excuse). But if someone is causing a disruption that’s leaking out to other people, don’t worry about being tactful—just make a quick exit.

“Break contact with people who are disrupting the party ASAP,” says Tumlin. “Don’t worry about following social etiquette if someone has already thrown good manners to the wind. He’s already abandoned normal social behavior, so you don’t owe him the courtesy of a tactful exit.”

Invest five minutes in recalling names. No one likes to draw a blank on a name we should have known. Fortunately, you can avoid many uncomfortable moments by recalling, just before the party starts, names of people you expect to see. “The best way to increase the odds of remembering a name is to put it at the front of your mind before the interaction,” says Tumlin. “Take five minutes before the company party to think through the names of people who are likely to be there. It’s a simple but powerful way to decrease the number of times you blank on a name you should have known.

“If you end up stumped on a name at the party, ask early in the conversation for the name you can’t recall,” he adds. “Say something like ‘Please tell me your name again’ as soon as you realize that you’ve forgotten the name. The longer a conversation goes, the more awkward it becomes to ask for a name that isn’t on the tip of your tongue.”

But what about the dreaded party introduction, when your spouse or a colleague is standing beside you and a third person—whose name you’ve unfortunately forgotten—is clearly expecting an introduction? Don’t sweat it, says Tumlin. There’s an easy solution to this common dilemma….

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