By Neil King
The art of the business lunch isn’t an easy one to master, but should you try to host one anyway?
Business lunches seem straightforward enough.
Yes they do, and in theory they are. But as with any business meeting, there is potential for disaster. If you set the wrong tone, say the wrong thing, or even dress the wrong way, you could lose out on a good contact, a good deal or – worse – get a bad reputation among your local business community.
So how do I avoid that?
There are a few ground rules that are worth sticking to. Decide why you want to do lunch with a particular person, and put together an informal agenda you’d like to stick to. Choose a suitable restaurant – preferably not too loud or cramped – and invite your guest with details of the meeting. Don’t let the food lull you into ‘over-friendly’ comfort levels – stay professional. Avoid messy foods, and always be sure to pay – it’s better if this happens after your guest has left.
That sounds pretty easy.
You’d be surprised how many people lose focus because they are out of the office. Don’t forget that your guests expect to see you in a professional capacity. You may be at lunch, but you should be 100 percent in business mode. The way you come across in less formal surroundings is an extension of how you conduct yourself in a business environment.
All being well, what can I get out of it?
There’s a lot to be gained by hosting a business lunch. Showing prospective clients that you are proactive, generous, relaxed yet focused, and keen to make an impression all counts. If you’re meeting people for the first time, you could create lasting bonds, if you’re meeting existing contacts then you’re strengthening ties and both parties are keeping the other up to date with news. Deals, contracts, partnerships, investment, and more are all on the table if you play it right.
When should I have a business lunch?
There will be times when you need to approach somebody softly for something that you want – this would be a good time to have a business lunch. Being outside the office puts you on an equal footing with them, and make them more susceptible to giving you want you want. Also, if you want to get to know the other person or people more for business reasons, then this is a great way to do it. You’ll have more time, conversation will be easier, and you can get a better understanding of what a person is really like. A word of warning though – don’t do them too often. They will lose their appeal for people, and you’ll end up spending an awful lot of money in the process.