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holiday_party_networking(MCT)—It’s officially the merry-making season, and small-business owners are likely going to spend some time over the next month at holiday parties.

“As a professional, you have the opportunity to either enjoy yourself by throwing caution to the wind, or the opportunity to work on enhancing your professionalism by building your network for new business,” said Sharon Hill, an author, certified etiquette trainer and president of Sharon Hill International, a motivational and educational speaking business in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Here are Hill’s tips for celebrating while networking.

—Take a gift for the host: Make your gift unique and meaningful. Flowers and wine are common, so others might bring them, too. Stand out by giving the host exotic coffee or tea, along with a funky coffee cup or teapot. Do some homework to find out what the hosts prefer.

—Consume alcoholic beverages in moderation: Drink no more than two or three drinks maximum. Before leaving the party, switch to coffee or water. The alcohol will flow freely, and people are watching how others handle the situation. Others might use drunken behavior as a reason not to do business with you or your company.

—Enjoy the food, but watch what you eat: You need to be able to shake hands. If you are walking around with a plate, you are derailing opportunities to meet potential customers and other business owners in a professional manner.

Occasionally, check your teeth in a mirror to make sure you don’t have food in them. Avoid garlic dishes or any food that might give you bad breath.

—Send a thank you note to your hosts after an event: This demonstrates your poise and knowledge of basic etiquette.

©2013 The News & Observer (Raleigh, N.C.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services