Last week, I was lucky enough to go to a Red Sox game with some colleagues and friends from the Rental Housing Association. They had a very nice reception for us, and then we all found our seats and watched the Sox play in a driving drizzle (we were fortunate to be seated in a covered area). As the game went on, a group of fans seated directly behind us got louder and louder. As time went on, they started swearing and sloshing their beer around. They kept getting more beer, and then unsurprisingly, they crossed the line into sheer sloppiness.
We decided to take a few photos of our little group, and one of these very sloppy girls decided to insert herself into our photo. She then slurringly introduced herself, and lo and behold, not only was she part of the RHA group, she was a former coworker (who I'd never actually met in person before). She proceeded to shriek my name at the top of her lungs, and then fell over and dumped her beer all over one of my coworkers. Needless to say, she didn't make a very good impression on any of us, and some of my colleagues were downright horrified.
To be clear: I am not a teetotaler. My coworkers and I all had a drink or two that evening. But even though we were having fun, we were all in control. Yes, it was after-hours, and we were at a ball game and wearing jeans, but guess what? We were attending said ball game with coworkers, vendors, and industry friends, which makes it a work-related event. And that, of course, means that we were all still in "work mode."
With conference season upon us, I cannot stress this enough: what you do and say at those games, cocktail parties, dinners and impromptu gatherings matters. And even if you think that no one notices/remembers the fact that you were incredibly sloppy, I promise you, they do and they will, long after the event itself is over. By all means, have fun, but for the sake of your professional reputation, remember where you are and who you're with. The event will be just as much fun (I'd even say MORE fun), and you'll be able to look back on it with pleasure, instead of embarrassment...or even worse, not remember it at all. Yes, sometimes, people mess up; we've all seen a coworker who had too much to drink at the office party. But don't let that person be you. Know your limits and feel confident that you weren't "that girl" (or guy).
Now get out there and have some fun. And oh - GO SOX! (Sorry, I just couldn't resist.)