Dread the summer social? You’re missing the benefits

Drinking in the sun - the summer networking social is fraught with potential pitfalls, but by following Tony#s rules you can make it work for you
Tony Reed is head of sales at commercial property firm Bruntwood and a board member of business organisation Professional Liverpool
PERSONALLY, I love a bit of summer work socialising and will happily attend whatever awards dinner, al fresco drinks party or charity quiz to which I’m invited. Vicious rumours circulating our office that I’d attend the opening of a packet of crisps are wide of the mark. Well, depending on the flavour. I firmly believe that summer evening socialising has countless benefits, not least in that it gives a more human, personal angle to your work relationships. Put another way, it helps you get to know your colleagues better and it stops you working with strangers or robots. We hold many such events at Bruntwood buildings across the UK during the summer, including a series of rooftop socials for our customers in Liverpool. For many people, however, the summer season brings a new level of fear and trepidation as they face up to the prospect of enforced ‘fun’ party nights, after-hours beer gardens or team building days out with the boss. Relaxing and making small-talk simply don’t come as easily to some people as they do to others, while many fear letting their hair down too much and facing the glares and smirks of colleagues the next day; or worse, Facebook and Instagram photos in the immediate aftermath. So, here are my top tips on how to get the most out of the summer work party season.
  1. Long before the day of the event, get involved with planning discussions about what to do, This gives you an outside chance of steering the conversation in a direction you’re more comfortable with.
  2. Once there, have an open mind and throw yourself in to it. It will rarely be as bad as you’re imagining and I’ve had many nights that have pleasantly exceeded my low expectations.
  3. If you know you are a woeful drinker, a terrible shot or hopeless at catching, be nimble about which activities you find yourself drawn into and proactively choose something you know you won’t embarrass yourself at.
  4. Always position yourself in the centre of a room, to avoid being cornered in a less than interesting conversation. This rule is even more important in situations like the dreaded party boat trip, where your only alternative of escape might be to jump overboard into the waves below.
  5. ‘Free drinks’ come with several hidden costs, most of them occurring the next day, so be sure not to overdo it. All too often, especially in the era of social media, the excellence of a night out can be inversely measured against the shame of the morning after.
  6. Within reason, try to keep the conversation topics within the boundaries of a normal working day. I’m not advocating a 20 minute debate about the printer cartridges, but issues such as someone’s personal hygiene or lack of work ethic are probably best avoided.
  7. Dress appropriately and observe any specified dress code. If you’re not the type to regularly go out with workmates or clients, you may be unpleasantly surprised by their tastes in extra-curricular apparel, so wear a poker face on arrival along with your own effortless chic.
  8. Don’t fret too much, whatever happens. We are human and we each have our own, but not necessarily unique, flaws. Nobody genuinely cares if you missed the archery board with every single attempt, while drunken indiscretions are usually forgotten by a similarly drunken majority (or even admired by a quiet minority!)