Films and TV tend to portray business people sealing major deals over a substantial liquid lunch. Whilst it may be true in some areas of business where the parties are well known to each other, the truth is that it is rarely a good idea to be involved in anything to do with business – particularly marketing and sales - when under the influence of alcohol.

There was an extreme case reported this week, where a female Barrister was banned from practicing due to a number of offences including drink driving, assaulting a bar manager, assaulting a police officer and failing to declare convictions when called to the Bar a year later. Despite the intelligence of the woman involved, she clearly had a serious problem with alcohol, which was the root cause of all of her convictions.

Whilst few people may be led to such extremes of behaviour, it is clear that there are many instances in which people think that they are being merry, relaxed or “showing their human side”, whereas to others, they are clearly drunk.

I remember attending an industry dinner many years ago and one of my competitors, who was usually a very likeable person, approached me and my guest (who was a Client of us both) and said “I’ve got his boss on my table”. As he walked away, my guest said “But I let all the contracts”.

The competitor would never have dreamed of behaving this way if he had not been drinking. From that moment on, his share of the work declined because nobody likes dealing with people that cannot be civil or give the impression that they are not professional.

There are some simple tips to help deal with the problem of “going over the top” at networking events which involve drinks:

  1. Remind yourself before you go to act professionally. If you are attending with colleagues, discuss it with them and agree to keep an eye on each other so you do not make any mistakes.
  2. Decide how many drinks you will have so that you can be sociable without losing part of your awareness and self-control. Make that a low number!
  3. NEVER let anybody top up your glass. It is easy to drink more than you realise when a wine waiter is wandering around topping up glasses while you are busy talking to people. His or her objectives are to make the guests happy and ensure that plenty of money is spent. Yours is to make sensible conversation.
  4. Drink plenty of water or soft drinks.
  5. Eat wherever possible to lessen the impact of alcohol.
  6. Try and remain standing to keep yourself alert. Practice getting the right posture and breathing properly to ensure that you remain comfortable.
  7. Be mindful of the company you are in. Some people do not drink. If this is the case, be respectful of them and drink in moderation. Others drink too much, so my advice is don't follow their example.

There is a fine line between being sociable and being "under the influence". Crossing this line is harmful to your business.