7 ways to make a good impression during business dinners
June 14, 2016
Attending business dinners and professional networking events often brings on anxiety for many people, particularly college students and recent grads. It should! It’s not something most people do on a regular basis, and it requires a special skill-set. How do you remember which fork is which? Should you place your napkin next to your plate or in your chair when you stand up to shake someone’s hand? And what if you take a bite of something disgusting and need to spit it out—oh geez!?!
If that weren’t enough, you’re most likely attending business dinners for specific purposes. You’re either attending to network with coworkers, supervisors, or potential employers, or you’re attending as part of the interview process. Either way, you’re under pressure to demonstrate your best table manners.
This short video, hosted by College Recruiter’s Content Manager, Bethany Wallace, suggests seven quick ways to make a good impression during business dinners.
If the video is not playing or displaying properly click here.
1.Skip the alcohol.
If offered alcohol, consider passing for multiple reasons. Drinking in the company of coworkers, supervisors, and potential employers can be dangerous. If you’re underage, it’s a clear no-no. If you’re of legal drinking age, it’s still questionable because you may inadvertently consume more alcohol than intended and wind up singing karaoke in the bar next door to the restaurant with your future boss watching. Need I say more?
A good general rule to apply to business dinners is “all things in moderation.” Don’t eat too quickly. Don’t order the most expensive thing on the menu, but don’t order the cheapest item either. Don’t fill up six plates on the buffet. Don’t hog the conversation; listen as much as you talk.
2. Don’t comment on food.
When possible, stick to pleasant, neutral topics of conversation like family, weather, weekend plans, and hobbies. Avoid commenting on what you’re currently eating; it’s considered rude. You should also avoid discussing religion and politics, but of course, take the lead of your host and/or supervisor to an extent. If your boss engages you in political banter, you might follow her lead, but remember to tread lightly. What you say can and may be used against you at work!
3. Try to avoid being picky or whiny.
Unless you have a legitimate food allergy and receive items which may trigger an allergic reaction, don’t make demands or send your plate back. If you behave in a picky, demanding manner, this behavior says something about you and not about the restaurant or wait staff.
4. Attend career services’ etiquette dinners.
When you have the opportunity as a college student, attend etiquette dinners hosted by career services offices. These events might seem boring while you’re in college, but after you attend your first business dinner, you’ll wish you’d attend them. You’ll learn the ins and outs of formal business dinners. Sure, you can look these tricks of the trade up online and Google infographics on how to set a formal dining table, but there’s no teacher like experience. If in doubt, work your way from the outside in with flatware and take the lead of your fellow diners who seem experienced and comfortable, particularly your supervisors and potential employers. Perhaps the greatest mistake you can make is to appear really flustered and to allow your nerves to keep you from making conversation with those around you.
5. Treat servers well.
Be kind to the restaurant staff. There’s nothing which speaks more loudly than snobbish behavior toward servers and wait staff. Remember, what you say and don’t say—your non-verbal skills—speak loudly to your employers and future employers. Soft skills truly matter, so be kind and courteous to everyone around you.
6. Don’t chew with your mouth open!
This one is common sense. Don’t chew and speak simultaneously. It’s just plain gross.
Whatever you need to say can wait until you’ve swallowed your food—promise.
On that note, the best way to obtain great table manners is to practice them on a daily basis, so consider chewing with your mouth closed every day, even when you’re eating alone. If you don’t, you might find yourself smacking your pizza with your mouth wide open while sitting across from your potential boss. And you know that won’t impress her.
7. Say thank you.
As always, an attitude of gratitude always makes a great impression on others. Say thank you to your hosts, servers, to people who open the door for you, and to others who extend kindness to you during the meal. Again, it reflects well on you and your soft skills when you treat others well.