You’ve got a meeting with a key contact. What could be better? How about the opportunity to build relationships over lunch?
Lunch meetings can be a great way to build rapport with your contacts and prospects. But lunch meetings can also present a few pitfalls that you can and should avoid. Here are five tips to avoid awkward moments over lunch:
1. Keep Your Eye on the Prize. Never forget that your objective is to build rapport, not just to enjoy a meal. Order something that allows you to eat and be social, but still be able to talk and present a polished image.
2. Do Your Homework. If your lunch is important, investigate the restaurant in advance. Visit in person if you can or check out the website. You’ll get a feel for the layout, the dress code and the etiquette. Review the menu in advance to pick your meal. Then you can focus on being social instead of stressing over your order.
3. Ask for help. Remember that servers are there to serve. Last week, I asked the server for a black napkin. I knew that the white napkins on all the tables would put unattractive white fuzz on my black suit. They found black napkins and I stayed neat. The same applies if you drop your fork, spill something or make some other mistake. Stay calm and ask the wait staff for what you need.
4. Mind Your Manners. Yes, you should use the correct silverware and drink from the right glass. Even more important, remember that you are showcasing your character. Make sure to treat the wait staff (and everyone else) with respect.
5. Handle accidents with grace. Everyone makes mistakes. If you make an embarrassing faux pas, move on without making a big deal. Or, if you really feel you need to address it, say “sorry” and then move on. I was at a board meeting with some of the most influential professionals in my city when the president of an elite organization walked straight into a glass door. Hard. He kept moving. There was an awkward moment of silence, then everyone else moved on too. It’s not the end of Western civilization. Let it go.
Finally, have fun. Use these tips to avoid common pitfalls and you’ll have a great experience.