Do you booze when you smooze? Camilla Ruth investigates whether it’s possible to network without getting a bit tipsy first.

Hello. My name is Camilla and I don’t really drink that much.

I’m so glad we could get this out of the way – I don’t want ya’ll getting offended when I’m not stumbling out of this place later. I could drive you home though? Do you need a lift? Can you get home safely?

I began drinking at an early age. Without going into specifics, it was far below the legal age and, yes, I really did like Vodka Cruisers. Binge drinking is the Australian adolescent pastime, at least if you live in suburbia and have a surplus of parks to loiter in on Friday evenings, doing things with boys you probably shouldn’t be.

When I went to university, I was the kind of girl who would leave home at 1am to go clubbing and get back around 7am.

Unfortunately my liver did not like this and still doesn’t.

He – and yes I believe it is a he because a female liver would be much kinder and softer on me – won’t let me so much as drink 3 glasses of wine without forcing me into a 2-day hangover. Everything just sucks and I’m so hungry.

Goddammit why did I mix my Pinot Gris with my Pinot Grigio?

So these days, I limit my weekly intake of alcohol to roughly 2 standard drinks, maybe 3 if I really want to let my hair down. I was born to be bad.

Unfortunately, good friends are made over wine. If you want cubicle-mate Steven to help you fix the photocopier at work then you better get in on Friday night happy hour. What’s a copywriter to do? I don’t belong in Mad Men! Someone please fire me from self-employment!

Being a sober copywriter was hard at first, and I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t hard now.

Today, I’m far more equipped to not only trick people into thinking I’m drinking, but I’ve also developed the skills to navigate a social event or a networking event without feeling like I need some liquid courage.

1. Get some confidence if you’re going sober

I don’t say this under the assumption that you can easily acquire confidence like a bag of chips. But to really be able to face slightly tipsy, professional and successful people, you need to develop an air of conviction. I know, I know, alcohol is a social lubricant. But if you’re relying on alcohol to win people over, then you’re not actually winning anyone over.

But you can fix this!

The first time you attend a networking event – or any other event for that matter – without your hand clasped around a schooner holding on for dear life, you will be nervous. Conversation might be difficult. I don’t believe that confidence is something you can just develop overnight, like a 24-hour bug or grey hair.

This is where professional help comes in: take a course on Udemy, hire a life coach, read a book, listen to a podcast like this one for highly sensitive people, and surround yourself with people who tell you you’re awesome.

2. Don’t feel like you have to explain yourself

When you’re in a room full of slightly inebriated people, you might feel a bit self-conscious. This is fine and you are normal and no your fly is not undone. If someone asks you;

“How come you’re not drinking?”

Don’t feel like you need to make up an excuse about driving cross-country early tomorrow morning, or you’re on some weird sort of medication and any alcohol will bring your out in a series of hives and tree-like growths.

When someone asks me why I’m not drinking, I usually just say, “I’m good without it.”

3. Drink an equally as enjoyable non-alcoholic drink

Drinking is how some people enjoy themselves. I like to enjoy myself too with those pretty cocktail umbrellas and lychees and lime cordial.

Do not opt for lime and soda water.

Grab a non-alcoholic cocktail, or concoct your own creation. If people ask what’s in it and get confused about the vodka absenteeism, refer to item #2.

4. Try not to leave early and smile, dammit!

I’m sorry to break it to you, but some people feel really offended by your lack of drinking. Trust me when I say the problem is with them, and there’s nothing you can do about it but continue to be awesome without alcohol.

Having said that, non-drinkers have a false reputation for being killjoys. The tendency is to leave early to avoid social awkwardness. Do not do this. I have found that the only way to counteract this negative stigma is by staying as late as I possibly can and challenging myself socially.

At the start of the night, I’ll dare myself to try and talk to at least 5 strangers before the night is through. I find this experience highly energising and helps me to get through the night without drinking. When you’re running around rubbing shoulders with people (instead of sulking in a corner over your lemon, lime and bitters), they’re a lot less likely to judge you for skipping the martinis.

Remember, the fact that you’re not drinking doesn’t take away from another person’s experience.

If you feel pressured to get really boozy, or the people around you feel so inclined to because that’s the only way they know how to enjoy themselves, do you really want to associate with these types of people?

Over to you

Do you have a set drinking limit at networking events? What scares you most about attending an event sober?

Bio

guide to networkingCamilla is a Melbourne-based copywriter. After graduating uni and working full-time for a year and a half, she decided she was proudly unemployable and now works for herself. Camilla helps values-based businesses with their online presence, and she also has a weekly fashion column over at Thevine.com.au

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