A business dinner can be fun, intimidating, productive, and a great learning experience all at the same time. In part two of this guide to business dinners, we will explore the pre-dinner, at dinner, and post-dinner checklists to ensure your meal and conversation are appropriate and effective.
Before The Meal
Introductions are a key to the first impression. This process varies by culture, so make sure to research the most respectful way of introducing yourself in each cultural situation. It is always a good idea to concentrate on correct pronunciation of each person’s name during introductions. Nothing kills a dinner quicker than calling someone by the wrong name for 90 minutes. During introductions, the handshake with eye contact is still king. This is not a display of strength. Give a firm handshake, maintain eye contact, and speak clearly and directly during each introduction.
During the process of ordering make sure to follow a few additional tips. Take the lead of the your guest. If they order an appetizer, it is appropriate to order one as well. Don’t ask the server too many questions. This will convey indecisiveness and that’s not usually a message you want to send during a business meal. Finally, as we mentioned in part 1, don’t order the most expensive or particularly messy items on the menu.
During The Meal
Most of these recommendations should have been burned into your brain by your parents. It all boils down to the basic manners of a gentleman. Make sure you don’t chew with your mouth open or speak with your mouth full. Also, if you would like to enjoy an alcoholic beverage it is almost always acceptable. However, make sure to limit your intake to one or two drinks.
Come prepared with appropriate dinner conversation. You need to communicate in a way that both sets your dinner guests at ease and addresses the points you wish to cover. Knowing when to discuss business items is also important. Generally, the host initiates the business discussion. Business, if not urgent, is often discussed toward the end of the meal or over coffee. Don’t wait too long, though, or you won’t have time to accomplish your objective.
During the meal be sure to remember to actually eat your meal. Eating will ensure two things. First, you won’t arrive at the end of the meal with a full plate and be forced to quickly shovel the food in. Second, eating your meal ensures you give your guests adequate time to speak and yourself time to listen. You may have a complete pitch planned, but we all know that listening and adapting during business meetings is a key to a successful meeting.
Who should pay the check is always a question at the end of a business meal. The answer is usually the organizer or host of the party. You’re also not on a first date. Don’t offer to split the check or cover the tip. Their business and time should be well worth the price of their meal.
Once the check is paid you have between 5-10 minutes to make a final impression and convey your final message. This is not the time to hard sell or force someone to make a decision. That will make all parties uncomfortable and can lead to a severed relationship. Few individuals want their hand forced. Instead, lay out a clear plan to follow-up and give a timeline of the expected communication. We’re all asked for “next steps” after meetings. This is your opportunity to lay out a plan beneficial to all parties involved.
Now go out there, gents, and conquer those business dinners.