You’ve just been invited to the business dinner of a lifetime. The who’s who of your company will be there, and you’re suited up, dressed to impress. You shake hands and sit down at the table only to be confronted with eight pieces of cutlery, three wine glasses and a napkin folded so ornately it could pass as a sculpture in the Tate. Don’t panic! We’re here to help you through the formalities of modern business dinners.
Whether you got a bus to the venue, an Uber, rocked up in your Lamborghini or stepped down from a horse and carriage, your air of deportment upon arrival will set the tone for the rest of the evening. Walking into the venue with an air of confidence that isn’t arrogant is the perfect way to go. Politely ask the maitre d’ for your table, then allow them to escort you to the table where you will thank them before introducing yourself to the guests.
When meeting the other guests, maintaining eye contact and offering a firm handshake is the perfect way to exude a sense of confidence without being overbearing. Repeating their names will also help you to remember them for later so you don’t confuse John and Jonah.
If you are the first to arrive, simply thank the maitre d’, accept a glass of water and wait politely. The other guests could arrive at any moment so ensure you aren’t slumped over the table nor talking too loudly on the phone about your crazy Saturday night, explaining why you ended up at “Coco’s” place at 5am doesn’t really make a great first impression
When it comes to choosing the right knife and fork for each course, the general rule of thumb is to work from the outside in. Don’t try and use the smallest fork to hack away at a 500g sirloin steak, things could get messy.
It is a cardinal sin in many social circles to drink red wine from a champagne flute. A formal dinner setting will have three glasses on the table; a large water goblet (resist the temptation to brim this with red wine), a medium red wine glass and a small glass for white wine. You generally don’t have to worry about choosing the right glass as the waiter or waitress should choose the appropriate glass when pouring the wine anyway.
General rules of thumb
It helps to have your mother’s voice in the back of your mind reminding you to chew with your mouth closed, keep your elbows off the table and don’t speak with a mouth full of food. Your napkin should be laid neatly across your lap and your knife and fork should be put together in the 4:20 position to signify that you’ve finished eating. Remember that you’re at a business dinner, not the pub, so try to steady your alcohol consumption, you don’t want to be that guy who sends a bottle of red wine flying across the white linen tablecloth.
Reaching across the table to get the salt is a big no no, no one wants your arm shoved in their face while they’re eating. If your eating pasta or soup, try not to slurp, the soundtrack of your bodily noises does not contribute to the atmosphere.
Many modern business dinners are hosted as informal networking events. Even though you won’t be sitting down for a three-course meal with wine imported from the provinces of France, it is imperative that you show manners and decorum.
Walking into a room and seeing a buffet is enough to make anyone’s eyes light up. As hard as it is to resist a third helping of that lamb rack that just melts in your mouth, businesses dinners aren’t a Man vs Food challenge. When serving yourself at a business buffet, ensure you don’t pile mountains of food onto your plate. Going for a second round isn’t deterred, but only help yourself to more food once everyone at your table has finished eating.
If you happen to be at an event catered with finger food and canapés, try not to follow the waiter or waitress with the food plate like a hungry stalker. When food passes you, politely take ONE mini quiche or blini. As with formal dining, the same rules of thumb apply, so avoid seeing how many mini spring rolls you can fit into your mouth while you voraciously explain Australia’s rugby win over England.
The buzzword of every business encounter, networking is what lands you that dream job on the 15th storey of the Bligh building. Networking is all about being the perfect mix of charming, confident and knowledgeable. Think of it like a blind date in the business world, you have to put yourself out there and make a good impression if you want to that callback.
Informal business dinners are a great chance to mingle and network. Walking through the room with confidence is key, just ensure you don’t stride with arrogance like you own the place. Try not to be a wallflower stuck to the drinks and cheese table. Most people at informal business dinners are there to network as well and are generally quiet receptive if you enter a conversation.
When entering a new conversation, avoid stealthily creeping behind people (breathing down someone’s neck can be a little off-putting). Pleasantly wait for a gap in the conversation to introduce yourself, shake hands and smile. Try and pick up the conversation where it left off, adding your own anecdote. Remember that you barely know these people or their beliefs, so avoid awkward jokes about pregnant nuns.
Looking the part at business dinners is key, so let us get you suited up in style here!
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