The Virtuous CIO  

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April 8, 2010 — The Business Dinner, Part 2

Continuing our discussion of the proper business dinner, we now have arrived at the restaurant and the real fun begins. If you are the guest, you are probably studying the menu and wondering what on earth is appropriate to order. The first thing you should do is pick up several items which would be acceptable for you, with pricing from the low to the medium side of the menu. Watch to see what your host orders, and take that as guidance. If the host insists that you go ahead, feel free to order a medium priced entrée. I've been at dinners or the host has suggested items at the higher end of the price scale with the suggestion that they are very good. If the item is something I find attractive, then I'll go ahead with good conscience.

If you are the host, then select something from the middle of the price range, but acted delighted with whatever your guests order. If they load up on the priciest items and bust your budget for the meal, it's your own fault for selecting the restaurant. In such cases you should read my previous post on common sense.

Pay attention to table manners. Let me say this again: pay attention to table manners! If there is some question in your mind as to how to approach the entrée or to use the utensils, take your guidance from the host. Hopefully by this stage in our career we know better than to talk with our mouth full, chew with our mouth open, or blow our noses on the napkin. If you grew up in the East Hick-town be thankful you are aware of that fact and take the time to research good table manners on Google. Better yet ask your mentor or someone else or your company for advice. This will help you avoid looking (or being) foolish. It will also impress your boss.

Review your strategy for the dinner. Use that to form the basis of your table conversation. If the goal is to simply get to know the others better, then small talk is fine. If you're nervous, challenged, or intimidated by the company, then write the following in the palm of your hand: listen more than you speak. Be solicitous of the guests or the host. Be genuinely interested in what they have to say. First of all this is simply the decent and kind thing to do. Secondly, you will have them eating out of your hand.

Watch for the best time to come to the point of the meeting. It may be while you're waiting for the salads to arrive, or it may be when everyone is finishing the desert. Take the time to carefully and succinctly come to your point. Do not repeat yourself more than two or three times. Then bring things to a close. They will love you.

And we will pick this up again next week.