Tuesday, October 7th 2008
“The world was my oyster, but I used the wrong fork” – Oscar Wilde
In a society where everyone seems to be living busy, crazy lives, business lunches have become more and more popular. This is a time we’re you can familiarize yourself with those you network with and also create new opportunities for you and/or your organization. This is a time for you to demonstrate that you are a seasoned business person that can handle themselves with power and grace. However, you won’t get far if your etiquette and communication skills fall short. It’s important that you be aware of your social environment so that you can govern your behaviour according to the current accepted standards.
So what are some tricks of the trade and ways to shine while “getting down to business”?
The biggest thing is to be prepared. Remember, you are representing yourself and your company.
When inviting someone to have lunch with you, it’s important that you say whether you are inviting them to a “hosted lunch”, meaning you intend to pay or a “none hosted lunch” meaning each individual is responsible for payment.
Arrange a time that works mutually for both of you. Select a restaurant close to your guest’s office and ask what type of food they prefer. Have a mental agenda or notes prepared as to what you would like to cover during lunch. This will make you look organized and efficient. If you are the one taking care of the bill, hand your credit card to the maître d’. This is often seen as very classy and avoids any awkward discussion of payment at the end. Ensure that you arrive ten minutes early and wait at a table facing the door, this way you’ll be able to see your guest enter the restaurant. Do not touch anything on the table, including the water. As they approach you, stand and shake hands. Make sure that business doesn’t begin immediately (unless they have said that they would like to do so) and give them the opportunity to order a beverage of their choice. I find that many people are conflicted as to whether ordering alcoholic drinks are appropriate or not; they are fine, just limit the consumption to one or two drinks.
Make your guest feel comfortable by giving them the freedom to order whatever they like. You can do this by suggesting an appetizer or by mentioning a dessert. If you are the guest, it’s recommended that you order mid-priced items on the menu. You don’t want to assume that your associate “can’t afford it”, but you also don’t want to go overboard.
Business discussion can take place until the meals come. During the main course, pleasant conversation should take place. This is your opportunity to befriend who you’re with (if you haven’t already).
If you are having real trouble with etiquette, hire a professional image consultant to assist you. Regardless of rules and mishaps that should or can happen over the lunch hour, remember to relax and be yourself. People don’t want to do business with a robot, but rather a warm, relatable human being. Let who you are shine!
Christie Ressel, Director
Personal Power Image Consulting
AICI Toronto/Canada Chapter – VP of Programs
*Toronto based Image Consulting