Etiquette and business manners is not a topic that seems to be discussed too much these days. Perhaps people consider that it is not relevant in today’s modern business world. Although I did have a request recently to run a workshop on business etiquette. The client deals in international business and it is important for the team to be acting and presenting their best in all situations, including wining and dining. Etiquette workshops used to be a popular request but I find now that is rarely considered, I wonder why?
Manners was also a topic I was discussing with a colleague who is in the throes of running a high-profile etiquette event and high tea with the legendary Paul Burrell, former butler to Diana, Princess of Wales. Her event is selling well so maybe there is a resurgence in interest. I hope so because I do believe it is “the little things that count” and having great manners portrays that extra class.
Cocktail parties, networking, and business lunches are becoming an increasingly important part of our everyday working life. Being at ease in these situations and behaving in the most appropriate manner doesn’t always come easily to everyone. It pays to perfect some social skills if you’re looking to stand out in your business or your career.
The way we present ourselves especially in social situations says a lot about us. We may come across as insecure or lacking in confidence if we bumble through introductions at a networking event. Our lack of table manners could raise the eyebrows of the all-important client you’re trying to do business with. Perhaps having a few too many drinks at a work function is not a good idea especially if you end up telling the boss or client what you really think about him or her.
Many of us are busy attending functions, meetings and social events to woo and win clients and customers. To further our careers we’ve learned sales and negotiating skills, proposal writing, technology skills, marketing, public relations and a host of other tools to help us in our business life. But what about the softer skills or the intangible elements of the work relationship that may help us land the deal?
Social interaction such as handshakes and introductions can be confusing especially if you didn’t learn the basics at home or school. We may have practiced good table manners around the dining room table as we were growing up, but with our modern take-away, fast food lifestyle, some of our earlier learning may have gone out the window. So let’s look at a few do’s and don’ts for acceptable behaviour at a business lunch.
- If you're taking a client to lunch you pay – the one who is likely to benefit the most from the business should pay. Leave your credit card with the cashier beforehand or politely excuse yourself before the end of the meal and settle the bill.
- Shaking hands is the accepted greeting. If it’s a male/female lunch avoid the kiss on the cheek unless you know each other very well. It’s best to keep the relationship business like. Recommend the restaurant and if possible book a table in a good position – away from the kitchen or restrooms. Have the client in the best seat facing into the restaurant or toward the view.
- Recommend food choices you may have had previously and perhaps something that is expensive on the menu so they feel comfortable with that choice. Be guided by their choices. For example don't order dessert if they are not having it and expect them to wait while you finish off a piece of chocolate cake.
- Don’t get drunk or drink too much. Also don’t smoke if your client doesn’t.
- Don’t wave your knife and fork around like a conductor – or use the wrong utensils. Your bread & butter plate will be on the left while your wineglass will be on the right near the tip of your knife.
- Don’t cut your bread roll inhalf and butter it and definitelydon’t use it to mop up your food. Bread should be broken off inbite sized pieces and buttered individually.
- Observe basic good manners – such as not talking with your mouth full!
- Start the lunch off with some small talk first. Although you are there to discuss business, bring it up after eating the entree.
Sue Currie is a speaker, author, consultant and educator recognised as an authority on personal branding to boost image, profile, brand and business. Through her workshops, professional development programs and brand consulting, Sue