Of the many things I love about Washingtonian living, the ability to attend social and networking events is undoubtedly my favorite. While each varies in dress code and alcohol availability (and cost), all offer the opportunity to celebrate something amongst friends, loved ones and peers—always a worthy cause, regardless of the occasion. And because there are so many of them going on at any given time, fitting one, a few, or a lot of these events into a busy DC schedule isn’t particularly difficult. (Especially for those who are socially talented.)
As someone to attends and reviews these gatherings regularly, I can safely say it’s the best part of my job. There’s little I enjoy more than getting dolled up and sipping champagne while checking out the eye candy donning suits, ties, and driving loafers. No matter what cause the festivities are honoring, I’m humbled and excited to frequent each one I’m invited to, that my schedule allows. Being a lifelong social butterfly who popped her event cherry long ago, I fully understand the both the personal and business benefits of being a frequently featured face at such soirees. Of course, social affairs are meant to be fun and therefore often have a guest list comprised of 20-to-30-somethings that are ideal for mingling. (It’s rare that I don’t make at least one new friend at these shindigs, if not several. The often-present open bar helps.) But because such functions usually honor some cause or charity, it’s more than likely that you’ll collect
several a few business cards as well. (For some reason, professionals love getting behind non-profits they’ve never heard of. Makes them seem pious, I suppose. But as usual, I digress.)
Since the schmoozing you’ll do at any given affair will be in part, business-related, it’s important to devote a considerable amount of preparation in advance as to put one’s best foot forward on event day. Remember that stepping out to a social or networking gala is like presenting a live resume to the other guests—your behavior (and that of those you bring with you) most certainly reflects upon you both personally and professionally. And since you never know just who you will meet, it’s always a good idea to be ready rather than sorry. (I refuse to say “safe” because in this world, playing it “safe” usually means coming in last.)
While this guideline applies to every Washingtonian event regardless of how fancy it is, formal and black tie affairs make it a rule to live by. Likely including an elegant dress code and affluent guest list, formal galas up the ante significantly. Aside from the fact that it’s fun to feel like a VIP (if only for a night), the chances of meeting a really valuable contact (or famous person) are significantly increased. Social norms also tend to become more conservative at black tie events, and making a jackass of yourself at one can really come back to haunt you. (Especially if there are photographers in attendance. Did you know that all of those pictures are posted online? I bet you regret making that stupid kissy/platypus-looking face now, don’t you?)
With the Presidential Inauguration right around the corner, it’s more than likely that quite a few Washingtonians will losing their black-tie v-card next weekend. I admit it: taking all of this into consideration can be overwhelming, especially for first-timers. (I remember being really nervous for my formal event debut.) The pressure of making a positive professional impression while also enjoying oneself can be heavy—it’s not a social equilibrium designed for the faint of heart. From choosing an outfit to a date and everything in between, it’s easy for a newbie to prepare incorrectly. While some don’t do nearly enough, most
others women go overboard and often spend way too much cash on it in the process. Both are bad ideas. Take it from a seasoned veteran: being ready for a social affair (even a formal one) doesn’t always require a credit card. To help my newly imported Washingtonians properly get ready for the 2013 Presidential Inauguration balls and galas, here’s some friendly advice on where to splurge, how to save, and when to compromise.
Whether you take all, some, or none of my advice, remember: although formal functions are meant to be fun, there is always a professional bottom line attached. Keep in mind that your presence at such events is a direct reflection on your personal and business life, therefore requiring the utmost attention. Don’t forget my newly imported Washingtonians, that those with a plan are often also the ones who come out rocking it, both inside and outside of the office. Neglecting to put thought and consideration into one’s tickets, date, outfit or beauty efforts pre-party can end up being costly in more ways than one. It doesn’t matter if you splurge, save, or compromise on everything. A lack or preparation will ultimately turn networking and social events into work, rather than a medium that works for you—something you’re not paid nearly enough to do past 6:00 anyways, regardless of what job you have.
Like most other social behaviors, we are taught the rules of appreciation from a very early age. Whether it be remembering to say please or thank you, children are constantly reminded of these guidelines throughout adolescence. Ideally, the regular use of these simple phrases as a means of expressing gratitude turns such behavior into habit, eventually developing mature, polite adults. And as the definition of “appreciation” grows increasingly more complex with age, remembering to be outwardly thankful for whatever positive things are thrown your way becomes more important than ever before. When you’re a kid, forgetting to say “please” or “thank you” can be chalked up a youngster who hasn’t fully matured yet. On the other hand, adults who neglect such terms are seen as rude assholes—an opinion that will reflect upon the individual personally and professionally.
Despite the fact that expressing gratitude can often be accomplished with just a few short words, I’ve found that several grown adults leave them out of their regular vocabulary—a personal pet peeve of mine. (I’ve been known to scold friends who don’t say “please” on more than one occasion, even if they intended to follow up with “thank you.” Can’t have one without the other. #neverbeenlesssorry) Especially with those you know well, it’s easy to become too comfortable and assume that “please”, “thank you”, and other displays of appreciation are implied and therefore unnecessary to repeat. This my friends, is a misconception that can get one into trouble both in and out of the office. Regardless of whether it was a friend, romantic partner, business contact, or coworker that went the extra mile for you, showing gratitude is a key component to maintaining and strengthening such relationship. Often, these people have gone above and beyond out of the goodness of their heart, and aren’t looking for a grand overture of thanks. Usually, just simple acknowledgement will go a long, long way. Without it however, one can assume that you’re unappreciative and will be left with little to no incentive to help (or interact with) you in the future. (i.e. You’re a douche bag.) And while friends or lovers may be more lenient regarding such rude behavior, don’t think for a second they won’t eventually get fed up. Trust me, they will.
I was reminded of the importance of showing appreciation last week when I attended the 2013 Sparkle Lounge event hosted by the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. As a party dedicated to expressing gratitude to the many clients and vendors the RRB staff works with regularly, I was hyped to attend. (Especially because it had also been a year since I began reviewing their events. Happy Anniversary!) Humbled to receive multiple invitations to the Sparkle Lounge, I promptly extended them to five close friends. (One of which I invited specifically as a means of thanking him for the gorgeous photos he took, which I used on my marketing company website. You rule MM!)
Like expected, the entire evening was planned to perfection with strict adherence to detail—something I’ve come to love and expect from this talented group of event planners. Whether it be the uniquely prepared finger foods, swanky and cool decor, or fully stocked open bar, the hosts took every step possible to ensure that guests enjoyed the party. And with a cocktail attire dress code and a DJ spinning the hottest beats, it was clear that the staff wanted all attendees to feel like a luxe VIP—regardless of whether the client was a regular guest or a first-timer. I beamed with excitement when my pals entered the Atrium and were awestruck by it’s splendor. Walking down the beautifully lit staircase, I felt nothing but pride regarding my fantastic and highly valued relationship with the event planning and sales staff. It was undeniably clear that the Ronald Reagan Building team wanted every vendor to know how important they (and their business) was to them—an objective they successfully accomplished. It wasn’t just what was said to guests that made the evening a smashing success, however. But instead, how attendees felt while mixing, mingling, and schmoozing: like a complete badass.
After such an experience, it’s impossible for me (or anyone else for that matter) to not want to do business with the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center. Not only did they go above and beyond to thank me for my hard work over the past year, but they gave me a reason to dress up and celebrate 2013 with my friends. (One of
every Washingtonian’s my favorite activities.) I can firmly say my buddies and I had a fantastic time. (The massive hangover I woke up with the next morning was even worth it.) And as each of my personal guests overflowed my phone with text messages and calls thanking me for including them, I was humbly reminded that the social rules of appreciation are necessary in every relationship—business or otherwise. Had they neglected to simply say “thank you” to me, the chances of them snagging access to the next baller soiree would be slim to none. (And frankly, I’d be slightly pissed off offended, too.) It just goes to show: displays of appreciation can come in any size, but their presence is paramount. My new Washingtonians, remember that even the smallest gesture can go a long way—in business, love, and life.
Always blissfully thankful for friends, family, and clients,
Living in the nation’s capitol, it goes without saying that some pretty cool shit happens in Washington DC each and every day. Even if it wasn’t where most of our country’s major decisions are made, there is always something going on and seeing famous faces isn’t uncommon. (You just have to keep an eye out, as the hype following them will be much smaller than if spotted in a larger city.) For those who call the DMV home, it’s easy to take such events for granted or be annoyed by their great frequency. In addition to being overloaded with promotional advertisements, many Washingtonians take the attitude of “That’s cool, but I’ll catch the next one…” due to their constantly reoccurring nature. After all, who wants to attend the same party with the same people, week in and week out? (Even when for different causes, I’d still pass.)
And while practically everything that goes down in Washington DC is broadcast nationwide, those living outsize the cozy Beltway bubble generally don’t trek down here for each one. Much to the dismay of DMV residents however, every once in a while there is an event so nationally recognized that it draws swarms people to our little slice of paradise. Sure, it’s awesome having friends and family visit for such instances, but we already have way too many tourists regularly haunting our streets, bars, and public transport systems—the last thing we need are more. (You remember tourists, right? They’re my favorite people… behind absolutely everyone else.) Festivities of grand proportions, such as the upcoming Presidential Inauguration for example, make tiny and usually peaceful DC overfilled with large and loud outsiders. When the nation’s eyes are focused on the DMV, everything from getting a drink to riding the Metro becomes about a million times slower, more complicated, and obnoxious.
Barack Obama’s January 2009 inauguration was the first I experienced as an official Washingtonian. Being our nation’s only African American president, DMV residents knew in advance that the tourist levels would reach annoyingly new heights. In the days leading up to inauguration, enormous buses flowed downtown constantly, lining the DC streets and dumping droves of fanny-pack wearing, map-carrying individuals along the way. Working on the National Mall as the public relations intern for the Natural History Museum, I witnessed and dealt with these people first-hand. Their numbers were outstanding, army-like even. And despite the unusually cold winter weather, visitors used every opportunity to get the “complete” District experience—usually resulting in tourists trying (and miserably failing) to use our metro systems, all while stopping to take pictures along the way. Trust me, simply getting up the escalator to get to work was a complete pain in the ass circa January 2009. (We understand that you’re on vacation, but Washingtonians aren’t. Basically: get the hell out of our way and capture precious moments elsewhere.)
For this reason (among others), my then-boyfriend and I chose to watch the historic inauguration from the comfort of our cozy Arlington bedroom—a decision I’ve never regretted, especially as my friends who did attend said they froze-to-death and were unable to see anything thanks to the massive crowd. In the end, every one said that being on the National Mall that day was their first mistake, as they failed to get anything truly meaningful out of it. Instead, it was just a lot of shivering and standing in line. Each reported that the experience would have been the opposite of miserable if they spent it elsewhere.
Even though I likely won’t be as domesticated for Obama’s 2013 inauguration, I will be avoiding the National Mall like the plague. (And advise all Washingtonians to do so as well.) Fortunately, there are several other options for established residents looking to watch inauguration over cheap drinks in a tourist-free location. Here are the Young&Stylish DC top picks:
End of Story: Regardless of where one watches the 2013 Presidential Inauguration, it’s important to make it enjoyable and memorable. As it’s rare that our country can agree on anything, an event which unites us as a nation can be a pretty powerful thing. While I encourage all Americans to keep their eyes on Washington, viewing location is paramount to the overall experience. It’s far better to digest inauguration from a location where you can actually watch the ceremony, amongst friends and with a drink than anything else… especially bobbing and weaving between tourists in the cold. Take my advice and you’ll thank me later. Guaranteed.