Few professionals would admit to making any mistakes when it comes to good manners, but anyone can make an error in etiquette. The holiday season is a period of frequent social activities that present more opportunities for you to make a social misstep. So, in the spirit of the season, we present a nine-point checklist of etiquette tips:

> Respond on time
If you receive an invitation, be sure to respond, says Joanne Blake, business etiquette expert with Style for Success in Edmonton. Failing to reply is rude, Blake says, because event planners need firm numbers to arrange the venue and refreshments,.

You should respond to an invitation within five days. And it’s perfectly fine to do so by email, Blake adds.

> Flag the important stuff only
While a wise host asks about dietary restrictions, it’s not the time to for you to note your aversion to broccoli, says Louise Fox, owner of the Etiquette Ladies in Toronto. Only serious allergies should be red flagged, she says.

> Bring something
A good guest will ask the host what he or she can bring to the event. But if nothing is necessary, a gift for the host or hostess is always appreciated. A small seasonal item is a good idea at this time of the year.

Fox stresses, however, that a gift should not demand effort on the part of a busy host. For example, cut flowers are a no-no, unless you are also providing a vase.

> Practise the art of conversation
Brush up on your small talk, Fox says, and don’t rely on your host to make all of the social matchups.

“Be prepared to introduce yourself,” Fox says, “and to have a conversation about something other than work.”

Also, be prepared to answer the question “What’s new?” with something other than “Nothing much.”

> Help the host
Always offer a helping hand but, if your offer is declined, stay out of the way. It’s not your job to turn every party into a kitchen party, according to Fox.

> Keep networking subtle
Don’t oversell yourself at a holiday gathering. “You don’t want to turn a social event into a sales meeting,” Fox says. Keep the exchange of business cards discreet.

> Emphasize the “work” in work event
Remind your staff that a work event is still work, says Blake, who adds that this is the most common area where a faux pas can occur. Staff might be tempted to enjoy the party — perhaps even too much — rather than work to make the event a success.

> Turn off your devices
Even if you spot others checking their smartphones or tablets, Fox says, too many of us are committing this manners misdemeanour at events of all kinds. It is rarely appropriate at a holiday event.

So, unless you’re waiting on news of a donated organ, you should not be checking your phone or tablet.

> Send thanks
It may reflect an earlier time, but the practice of writing a thank-you note after attending an event does not go unnoticed.

An emailed thanks is fine, especially if that’s how the invitation was received. A handwritten note, however, is a nice touch that will cement your good-guest status, Fox says. Send your note within three days of the event, she says. Otherwise, “Better late than never.”

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

Next: Hosting clients.