The business lunch is a custom that almost all professionals will run into at one time or another during their careers. Though the idea seems straightforward – a simple lunch and conversation with one or more other professionals – there is far more planning and protocol involved than you might at first assume. Today we’ll offer some tips to make any business lunch a success.
Who, What, When, and Most of All, Where
Be sure to choose a restaurant that is quiet and calm enough for a business meeting to take place. Trying to have a conversation even with friends and family in a chaotic bar or restaurant is extremely frustrating – imagine how much worse that would be between professionals on a schedule. Pick a location that you’ve been to before, and that isn’t too noisy or chaotic for your working lunch to run smoothly.
Kindness is Golden
Make sure you treat the restaurant staff with respect. Being short with “the help” is very much a thing of the past. Rather than impress your clients or colleagues, rudeness is likely to give them a very bad impression of you as a business person, (not to mention as a person in general). Even if the service is subpar, be polite, and don’t forget your “pleases” and “thank yous.”
The Phone Addiction
… is shared by everyone, especially business people. For this precise reason, turning off your phone can be a great gesture of respect. Take advantage of this at your business lunch. Silence your phone and put it away. This lets your clients know that you consider them and their business important, and that they have your full attention. If you absolutely must check your phone, excuse yourself briefly and do so somewhere out of view.
Listen – Really Listen
It’s so tempting to succumb to the feeling that you finally “have” someone’s attention when you get together for a business lunch, and end up treating that person like a captive listener while you dominate the entire conversation with your sales pitch. It’s so important to remember that listening is as important as, if not more important than, talking. Not only is it better conversational etiquette, but if you listen carefully, chances are you’ll learn valuable information that might just help you be more persuasive in making your pitch.
Be Social – But Not Too Social
This is a difficult area for many. It’s commonly accepted that a business lunch starts with some light small talk rather than an immediate business discussion. If you’re not careful, however, you can end up extending the chit chat for so long that the “business” of the business lunch fades into the distance. Pay attention to your time frame and lead the conversation around to the business purpose in a reasonable amount of time. One rule of thumb that works for many is to switch to business after the lunch order has been made, and you’re waiting for your meal to be served. And here’s a side note: Do your best to consciously store the information exchanged in your casual conversation; personal news and events that you remember make good sources of conversation the next time you meet up with this person.
Whether you think it’s old-fashioned or not, a thank-you note is always a good idea and reinforces the positive impression that you made during your lunch. You can of course make it brief and simple, stating that you enjoyed meeting over lunch and thanking them for the chance to discuss business face to face.