The Christmas season is now well and truly upon us, and with it comes a raft of uncomfortable drinks events. Be it distant relatives coming to stay, the annual drinks party with a load of people you never see (out of choice) the rest of the year, or the office party, there’s no denying that at some stage over the next fortnight, you will be stuck in an awkward moment. The vast majority of people I know have their office party this evening or tomorrow night, and as such are in dire need of assistance in surviving the horror of it all. Fear not, with this easy cut-out-and-keep guide (with the pre-requirement that you print it out, of course), you can master the drinks party and survive the next fortnight.

Firstly, the people. This is half the battle, and if you’re fortunate enough to succeed here, you may not require the rest of the advice displayed below. It is key that you select a group of like-minded people to stand with. There may be others who you get on with at the party, but they might not have the same agenda as you (some people go to these events to “work the floor” or, god forbid, to meet new people), so you have to be sure when making your pick. If you can find a group who are similarly minded, and as such have the ‘desire to be there’ levels of a Rabbi in a mosque, then you are on the right path. Progress to the next level…

Right, you’ve got your group of people, now you must work out where to stand. Ignore the temptation to stand near the bar, this is madness. Yes, you have easy access to the sweet nectar that will make the whole ordeal more bearable, but you are exposed, you are standing in the motorway. People you don’t want to talk to will pass closer and closer to your bubble of safety with increasing exuberance as the booze takes a hold, until your group are engaged in unwanted small-talk. From there, the evening is over. You’ll be picked off like those weak, sickly Impalas you see getting butchered on David Attenborough documentaries and before you know it you’ll be talking to some bore from accounts about calculators. Probably.

No, no… The thinking man aims the other side of the room, away from the hustle and bustle of the bar, and goes on exploratory forays to the bar when he is thirsty. He does this because the thinking man has another trick up his sleeve… 2 glasses.

The joy about the 2 glass technique is its simplicity and its flawlessness. You go to the bar and collect a pair of drinks, then return to your spot. If all goes to plan, you have two drinks and therefore have double the amount of time until you next have to venture out into the dangerous open plains of the party again. However the plan is not without insurance policies. Should anyone attempt conversation, you can humour them for a few seconds before explaining that you are just off to give your friend his drink, therefore explaining the presence of the 2nd glass, while escaping a thrilling conversation about the firm’s Q4 performance. It is infallible.

Of course, this technique is redundant if there are waiters at the party, although this is unlikely to be the case at an office bash. But with different problems come different solutions…

At a fancier drinks party, you have obeyed all the rules, you have found your group, but the positional factor is spun on its head with the addition of “circuit access”. By that, I mean the availability of your group to the assortment of waiters, thereby ensuring that you get maximum access to top-ups and canapés. Once in position, this involves a huge element of teamwork.

You have to remember here that this is all psychology. The waiters want to get rid of their nibbles, and they do not particularly mind who they are distributing them to. In fact, if their attitude towards the product is anything like mine the last time I handed things out for free, they should probably just dump the whole tray in the bin. Alas, this is one of the areas that differentiate flyering at university from waiting, but the principle remains… You must make yourself that bin.

Create a bay of people among your group so that the very sight of you will be a port in a storm to the waiter. The mere sight of this will lure him, siren-like, into your group where the shape of your formation can lead to a classic pincer movement, ensuring two bites at the cherry for everyone. As the battered and empty tray is taken away, resembling the cow-sling in Jurassic Park after Raptor feeding time, a little quip can cement your place in his good books too. It’s the greatest symbiotic relationship since those little birds that clean crocodiles’ teeth.

So there you have it, a few helpful tips. Follow these guidelines and with any luck, by the time the attention-seeking berk from marketing has humiliated himself in front of your CEO, you will have spoken to a sum total of five people, had a decent meal and drunk enough to leave in good spirits to go and join some people you actually like at an alternative venue.

In the (fabricated) words of Gordon Ramsey: Abhorrent drinks party… Done.

by Harry Harland

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