Dining Decorum at a Business Dinner
You RSVP’d yes to that important business dinner. But now it has been a long day and you are not in the mood to go. You decide it would be rude to cancel at the last minute, or not show up at all, so you decide you will do just that, show up. Well, that is not enough. You can not just simply stick on a name tag, eat some free food and nod along to what the clients, or even your boss, have to say. Once you have been invited to a business function, you have a job to do before and during the event. You need to put your game face on, with a smile, and you need to be prepared when you show up. You need to know what you will talk about, who you will talk to, how you will hold your glass, and shake hands, all without missing a beat. You want to show your host, your clients, your boss, that you know how to carry and present yourself at any kind of important business dining function.
Following these tips about business dining decorum will get you through any important business meal:
RSVP promptly. When you receive an offer that requires a formal response, don’t delay. It’s the first opportunity to show you are conscientious and respect the person extending the invite. Call, email or send back the response card within 48 hours of receiving the invitation. Only accept for the number of people invited – no “surprise” plus ones.
Arrive on time. If the invitation says 7:00 p.m., don’t be tardy to the party. Light hors d’oeuvres and cocktails will be served, followed by a sit down dinner approximately 45 minutes to an hour later. You mustn’t arrive just in the knick of time to sit down and E-A-T!
Sing for your supper. The host invited you to the dinner party because he or she felt you had something valuable to offer to the celebration. Your job is to make your own introductions, meet people you don’t know, greet those that you do, and be interesting, as well as interested, in what others have to say.
Dinner is served. At a social event, the man seats the woman to his right, and then follows with the woman on his left if another gentleman has not seated her. Everyone at the table will remain standing until the host arrives and has taken his or her seat.
Wait for the host. Before removing the napkin to your lap, or taking a sip of wine, pause for your host to take the lead. When the napkin is removed, follow suit. Your host may propose a welcome toast and it would be bad form to have finished your glass of wine before the meal had even begun.
Bread on the left. How can something as simple as a small dinner roll throw off the entire table? One misstep can start a roulette of mishaps! If someone drinks from your water glass, or eats from your bread plate, refrain from taking the persons next to you, starting a trend going in the wrong direction. Discreetly ask the server for another plate or glass, or put your bread directly on your entrée plate. The rule of thumb: Solids are placed on the left, liquids on the right – use your thumb and index finger to make a circle and your hands will make a B (Bread) and a D (Drink) as a reminder … hands under the table please!
Outside – In. When in doubt as to which utensil to use first, follow the place setting and use the utensils furthest out, working in from course to course.
Technology is not welcome at the table. The sound of a text or ringing cell phone during a meal is distracting and disrespectful to your host and fellow guests. Unless you are a doctor on call, or expecting a crucial message regarding someone’s health, turn your phone off and keep it out of sight. If you must have it at the table, place it on your lap with your napkin covering it. Never set it on the table.
One thing at a time. Cut only one piece of food at a time. Bring it your mouth, chew and repeat. Avoid holding your drink in one hand, your dinner roll in the other as you are chewing, bringing your drink to your mouth to take a sip. Break off one small piece of your bread item, butter it and bring it to your mouth. Avoid “buttering up” the entire roll and eating it like a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.
Keep the noise level down. Eating with confidence means you don’t bring a great deal of attention to yourself and your table manners. Avoid the obvious chomping, eating with your mouth open and blowing your nose at the table. More obvious attention getters are: pointing with your utensils, using your fingers to push items on your fork, sopping up gravy and wiping your plate clean with your bread.
So when you receive your next invite to an important business dinner, do not hesitate to RSVP. Be prepared to show up, without being distracted by small details like which is your salad fork.
Diane Gottsman is a national modern manners and etiquette expert, sought out industry leader, accomplished speaker, author and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in executive leadership and etiquette training. Her clients range from university students to Fortune 500 companies, and her seminars cover topics ranging from tattoos in the workplace to technology at the dinner table and the proper use of social media. Her advice is backed by a Master’s Degree in Sociology with an emphasis on adult behavior. Diane’s engaging demeanor and her straight forward approach to daily etiquette situations are current, timely, informative and fun. Visit http://dianegottsman.com/ and http://www.protocolschooloftexas.com/
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