Hosting a Business Cocktail Party

You may be asking yourself, “Why would I host a business cocktail party? What should I keep in mind when planning the party?”Building your business and growing your firm is deeply rooted in networking.  Unfortunately, not all of your clients or prospective clients can play a round of golf, but everyone can enjoy some time to network at a cocktail party.

There are a five things to consider before hosting a business cocktail party:

  • Timing.  Cocktail parties are typically scheduled for only an hour or two in the evening.  The party typically shouldn’t exceed three hours – hence the term “cocktail hour.”  This will be great for your budget.
  • Location.  The location should reflect the feel of the event.  If you want a more formal cocktail party, your venue can help to achieve that goal.  In this case, you’d be looking for a trendy, upscale spot.  If you want your guest to feel comfortable and relaxed, you should choose a more casual locale.  In both cases, you’ll probably want it to be in a central location and close to your office so that your staff is able to get there easily after work.
  • Budget.  Your budget is extremely important.  Cocktail parties are not meant to break the bank. Your budget will help you determine how many clients to invite, as well as the amount or caliber of food and drink that you want to serve.  If you aren’t working with a large budget, consider keeping your cocktail party at just one hour to curb expenses.  You can still have a very productive networking opportunity in one hour.
  • Menu.  When you host your cocktail party, you are never expected to serve a full meal.  You’ll want to choose a mix of hot and cold hors d’oeuvres for your guests – and don’t neglect to offer a vegetarian option. You typically want to plan for three-four per guest per hour.  Make sure the food items are easy to pick up and eat in one bite.  Your main goal is networking not juggling plates!
  • Drinks.  No need to actually serve “cocktails.”  Choose drink options that make sense for your budget.  You can always go with a choice of select red and white wines, and add a few beer options.  You can also choose to serve signature cocktails or champagne or punch.  Be sure to have a few nonalcoholic drinks available.  No one complains about a drink when the host is buying!  This is a business gathering, so it is likely that most of your guests will have one beverage per hour.

Remember, your main goal is to build relationships with your clients or prospective clients in a stress-free environment.  Provide all of the necessities, and everyone will enjoy themselves and be delighted that they were invited!

Heidi Dublin, Events Manager for CPAmerica International. As a part of the Events department, Heidi plans and organizes all of CPAmerica’s conferences, including the Marketing Roundtable, A&A Conference, Technology Roundtable, Leading Partner’s Retreat, Firm Administration Roundtable and the Tax Conference. You can follow her on Twitter @HeidiDublin.

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