‘Tis the season for endless socializing, which for many financial advisors begs the perennial question: How do you interact with others in a way that is festive yet professional?

Allison Graham, London, Ont.-based author of From Business Cards to Business Relationships: Personal Branding and Profitable Networking Made Easy, says you can strike a balance between business and pleasure. She offers the following tips:

1. Avoid selling yourself
“This is a time of celebration and being social,” Graham says, “and letting go of any preconceived notions about having to close a new deal or find a new client.”

While you should want to meet new people, a holiday party is not a networking event. Don’t ask other guests about their investments or give your two-minute “elevator speech” promoting your skills.

Instead, ask about guests’ families, plans for the season and hobbies.

Take advantage of the event as a break from talking business. If you do meet someone who could be a prospect, remember that you and other guests have a mutual acquaintance in the event’s host. After the party, you can ask the host to re-introduce you.

2. Involve your partner
Your spouse or partner can help you connect with other guests. That is not always easy, as your partner may not be used to joining you in this setting, and might not know as many guests as you do.

Prior to the event, inform your partner of any strong personalities who will be present. For example, you might know of one guest who is overly flirtatious or one with a strange sense of humour. You do not want your partner to be caught off guard and made uncomfortable.

You should also discuss how your partner could help you make the most of the evening. If he or she is comfortable getting to know other guests on his or her own, you can spend part of the evening socializing separately, to connect with more people.

3. Drink moderately
“If you are a drinker,” Graham says, “remember that you’re still contributing to your professional brand, even though you’re in a social situation.”

While you will want to enjoy yourself, remember your professional status. You are responsible for others’ financial health, and your behaviour will affect whether you are trusted with that important role.

“There’s just no recovering from being the person who’s eating spilled pâté off the floor,” says Graham. “[People] never forget the story.”

4. Bring a gift
When choosing a gift for the host, try to be creative and make sure your gift has a useful purpose. Graham suggests bringing a consumable item as opposed to trinkets.

Wine is a popular option — but that can be a part of the problem. You’d probably just be adding one more bottle to the others the host has received. Options can include a high-end extra-virgin olive oil for the host who loves to cook, or imported chocolate for the one with a sweet tooth.

This is the first instalment in a two-part series on holiday parties.

Next: Planning your office party.