Much like What Not to Say at the Thanksgiving Table, there are plenty of subjects that shouldn't be touched when gathering with co-workers outside of the office. Try to avoid the big three – money, sex and politics. If you aren't confident your co-worker is still with their wife – do not bring her up. If a young girl in the office is dressed inappropriately – say hello and move on. Don’t get caught in a situation that could have people talking about how awkward you were, but don’t be afraid to talk about something other than work, too.
So, that said, what are some good topic areas to bring up at a work function? If you know a co-worker is a big fan of football or another sport, try to work that into the conversation in a tasteful way. Be wary of “Oh, you’re a Red Sox fan? Well I’m from New York!” and instead steer the conversation towards positive energy. “Hey Bill, it looks like your team is having a pretty great season. You think we could be seeing them in the Super Bowl?”
Other great topic areas are any subject that is a passion of your co-worker. For example, if you know that Suzie loves to cook, tell her about a great meal you made recently. If Joe is a big reader, try to bring up books. Try to show up to the party with some talking points on hand to avoid getting stuck talking about the weather for four hours.