A Balancing Act: your plate, drink and a free hand


As Mom to three kids, I’ve often had a need for more hands.  When attending a networking event, wedding or cocktail party, most of us have experienced the same need, but for different reasons. How do you gracefully balance your cocktail plate and wine glass, yet have a free hand to do some shaking or eating of  that yummy little crostini? With the comeback of social cocktail parties, I’d like to share a few tips and tools to help you perform this delicate balancing act.

Bring your own cocktail plate, like the one shown, to every event. It’s a perfect holder for your appetizers AND drink, while fitting into most purses or man-bags, ready to be pulled out at a moments notice.

Too big for your man-bag? Then try this finger food plate. I’d guess that some people forget that food is on the  finger plate when they take a sip of wine. It certainly would be a conversation starter – both the plate and mini-reuben sliding to the floor!  These plates and many other hilarious food gadgets are sold by Fred and Friends at http://www.worldwidefred.com/

No. I’m not advising you to bring your own cocktail plate. I just thought these were fun and wanted to share!

Please do consider the simple guidelines below to be a successful mix and mingler at your next social event where hors d’oeuvres and drinks are served.

Don’t head right to the food. After greeting your host, work the room. Say hello, meet some new people. That ‘s why it’s called a social event. A perfect time to check out the delicious delectables would be during a conversation lull or when you need to make a graceful exit (as I’ve discussed in a previous blog).

Git ‘r done. Yes, a quote from Mr. Manners himself, Larry the Cable Guy. If I’m going to enjoy appetizers, I like to do it efficiently, over and done. Then my hands are free the remainder of the time for handshakes or to pick up  an occasional hors d’oeuvre as it passes by.

Keep your food and drink in the left hand, so that…..say it with me….your right hand is free for handshakes. If you have both a plate of food and a drink, with no table in sight, your hands are occupied. Most are understanding if you can’t shake hands because of this. Holding both glass and plate in your left hand is possible, it just takes a little practice.

Find a set-down place. For your drink and plate. A table or ledge. Take a break from being a social butterfly or networking maniac for a minute. Enjoy the company of one or two others as you eat. Maybe a new friend you met while filling your plate with nibblets. Most cocktail parties will not have chairs, in order to encourage mingling , so standing while eating is a skill you’ll need to have in your tool belt.

Never talk with food in your mouth. I know! I can’t believe I have to mention this either. Basic manner, right? We teach this to our kids from a young age, but if I had a penny for every time I saw an ADULT doing this, well, I’d have loads of pennies! No one likes to receive a food shower. The use of your finger to signal “one minute please” always works.

Limit your food intake, but especially your drinks. Social cocktail parties, especially those for business, are not the time to chow down or throw up. To quote a networking-guru friend, “Every networking event has a story of someone who drank too much. Don’t let that be you.”

Use your napkin. And certainly not to blow your nose. No finger-lickin’ either! An especially big YUCK-out to the finger licker who then wants to shake your hand.

With the right balance, you can nibble and nosh your way to making connections with others with confidence and grace. How do you balance?

Mind Your Manners,


  1. Great stuff as always Kelly! I’d only add “No double-dipping” with chips or veggies. Better yet, put the dip on your own plate and then dip til your heart’s content!

    • Kelly

      How could I forget the Seinfeld double-dipping rule!? It’s always a good idea to put the dip on your plate. Thanks for adding Jeannine!

  2. I seem to have been doing everything right, but someone proposed a toast and I forgot where my drink was (it was being held under my plate). Everyone could see it except me. Slightly embarrassing, but I wonder if this is a semi-common experience?

    • Kelly

      David, your situation reminded me of the very common one where you are looking for your sunglasses, only to realize they are resting on top of your head! I know I’m guilty! Congrats for figuring out how to balance the plate and drink. Hopefully you too had a good laugh once you discovered your “hidden” drink!

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Nothing's Finer Than A Fine Young Diner


Use these table manners tips to turn your child into a delightful diner!  Read Kelly’s article as featured in Eastern Home and Travel Magazine.

fine young diner article

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Traveling with kids? Read Kelly’s article as published in Eastern Home & Travel

Networking Etiquette: What Do You Know?


Thank you to Team Network for having me as their guest speaker at their Netfast in Rockville, MD. Click on the link to watch our netiquette discussion.

Team Network Netfast

Manners Schmanners! Read Kelly’s Interview in FindIt Frederick!