by Elizabeth Zielinski, CMM | December 16, 2013

Something about a holiday celebration lends itself so well to the meetings industry. Maybe it’s the readily available access to beautiful hotels, professional décor, and premium food and beverage. Or maybe that our industry is comprised of so many extroverts who really don’t need a reason to gather and celebrate. But this is not the time of year to overlook your professionalism in the midst of all that celebrating. I actually think there are a lot of opportunities for buyers to strengthen their business relationships into the new year based on the choices they make this season.

Take a new gift-giving tack. We all know that seasonal gift-giving is prevalent and a practice celebrated across multiple cultural observations. Certainly you have made yourself aware of the rules your employer has for accepting gifts, and you also have considered the ethical implications. But have you ever considered being the giver instead of the recipient? Maybe you have a supplier partner who has consistently come through in a pinch for you over the last year, or a convention services manager who runs your recurring meetings so well that it makes your job easier. Rules of etiquette say it is acceptable to allow your return business to be thanks enough, but what might it do for the relationship if you provided an actual gift of thanks this season? For the same reason why vendors are giving you gifts, which is to remind you of their appreciation, I suggest that your do the same. If you are feeling that appreciation for others, make a public statement about it with a considerate gift.

Negotiating habits fall under a lot stress this time of year. Planners want to book business within a fiscal year but also want to get away on a much-needed holiday break, while suppliers are trying to close out their month, quarter and year. Don’t use the timeline as pressure to extract concessions from either side, and don’t mislead in order to finish on time. This is true across both sides of the negotiating table. Your professionalism (or lack thereof) will be something you will have to live with when the calendar turns to January.

Shake hands gladly. Finally, I would urge you to remember that business parties are primarily networking opportunities. If your employer has an internal holiday event, this is a chance for you to rise above the typical partygoer reputation planners often have by conducting yourself with the utmost professionalism. And if you are attending industry social events, keep in mind that they are not just for the sellers to meet the buyers, but also for the buyers to meet everyone. The people you encounter at these events could be across the table from you at the next negotiation — or at the next job interview. Choose your behavior with that in mind.

In closing, I’d like to say thanks to all of you for being in my reading audience this year. I learn so much from your comments and questions, and I hope that maybe you have learned something from my thoughts and experiences, too. As always, I’d love to hear from you via the comments section below, or via email to My best wishes for a wonderful holiday season and a happy and successful new year.