There is an old adage that you cannot take back your first impression. Fair or not, this is true. So make it a great impression. When meeting someone new for the first time, whether it may be a friend, colleague, etc., keep this in mind. A smile always goes a long way.
Being on time is also critical and a sign of respect. Allow enough time for parking, traffic or connections
because a barrage of excuses doesn’t impress anybody.
Your body language is very important.
-Don’t fold your arms or cross your legs. Just stand up nice and straight.
-Maintain great posture is really important.
-A proper handshake is good to learn at a young age (no knuckle crunchers, wet noodles, or endless handshakes please).
-If you go by a nickname say it up front (e.g. Lizzy short for Elizabeth or Ally for Allison).
-You want to observe someone else’s personal space. Don’t stand too close to someone. Be about an arms length away.
-Respect the personal bubble.
Keep in mind that this is how we do things in the United States. I always tell my clients that other cultures have their own practices and we should respect and learn from them. There is a wonderful book called Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: How to do Business in Sixty Countries by Terri Morrison and Wayne Conaway. They address what is appropriate greeting etiquette country by country. For instance, if you are meeting someone European, he/she may give you the two-cheek kiss if you are a female as is customary in their culture.
You should also carefully monitor the tone of your voice (this is important on the phone as well). You don’t want to shout. If people tell you that your voice is too loud, please listen to them. If they ask you to speak up, please do. You also don’t want to sound like a know-it-all.
WHEN FIRST MEETING NEW POTENTIAL CLIENTS OR COLLEAGUES:
-Best to address them as Mr. or Mrs., or even Dr. if applicable, until it becomes clear they have given you permission to use their first name.
-If multiple people are involved and you are making introductions, it is far better to err on the formal side until someone corrects you. For example, you might say “Hello Mr. Jackson,” and he may correct you by saying, “Call me Dave.”
-Spit out gum prior to any business meeting. Need I say more?
-When out at a business meeting that involves alcohol it is better to abstain from drinking or if there is a lot of pressure have one drink maximum. Business deals can easily head south when alcohol gets involved. Behavior can change very quickly (and usually not for the better)!
THE ART OF CONVERSATION
People are intrinsically fascinated by other cultures. I believe that it is appropriate to start a meeting by sharing a little bit about yourself or your culture. But take caution when doing so, it is important not to start off the conversation with anything too personal. -Being a good listener is important too.
-It is acceptable, often times advised, to take notes, but is polite to ask for permission first (especially if the notes are going into your cell phone).
-Asking open-ended questions and taking notes demonstrates that you are interested in what the other person has to say.
-In a group setting, try to ask various questions to different people and “work” the table. (This is important because it shows that you care about what others near you have to say, even those who may not usually prefer to voice their opinions).
Tip: always have some conversation starters or ice breakers in your back pocket for awkward silences. It can be about anything, sports, movies, etc., while you are trying to get to know someone. Small talk is better than no talk at all. At the time I am writing this article, the World Cup is taking place, and it seems that everyone I encounter can relate to the soccer games taking place in one way or another. Once the business talk begins, an easy lead-in to the conversation is to perhaps ask whomever you are speaking to about their personal experiences with the company.
NAVIGATING A BUSINESS MEAL WHICH MIGHT INCLUDE AN INTERVIEW
If possible, let the client order first. Follow their lead. Please do not get a 5-course meal if they are just ordering a salad. For example, if the client orders a cob salad, do not order the T-bone steak with 5 sides.
-Be careful if you choose to order spaghetti with marinara sauce (my favorite) or another food with a sauce.
-Avoid pizza, ribs, or other finger foods for lunch since these foods DO get messy and it is hard to look professional when eating with your hands.
-Avoid foods that stain, are difficult to eat, or can get stuck in your teeth easily (broccoli, spinach or pineapple are the usual culprits for me
-If you are tired, please do order coffee or iced tea with your meal as a way to perk up, unless you have done so prior to the meeting.
– Preview a menu on a restaurant’s website prior to dining there. )This is beneficial if you are an indecisive person, picky eater or have a lot of dietary restrictions that may prevent you from ordering food in a timely manner or the person you are meeting has these issues).
- After you schedule a meeting to write it down or put in your electronic calendar immediately.
- Confirm the meeting the day before.
- On the day of the meeting, allow plenty of time in case of traffic or parking issues.
- It is ALWAYS better to arrive early rather than late. Being late can cost you the job or even the business you were seeking. There are absolutely no excuses that a potential employer wants to hear.
-Make sure once the meeting begins that you have put your cell phone and any other electronic devices away.
-When sitting down, the first thing to do after you have introduced yourself is to put your napkin on your lap.
-The number one reason that a business lunch can turn sour is if the waiter or waitress is spoken to rudely.
-Do not ask the person interviewing you how much money he or she earns.
-Do not arrive starving to a business meal
-Don’t not hassle over the check. If you asked a client out to lunch, you always pay.
-When selecting a restaurant, pick somewhere you have been before and can recommend.
-Pick a place that is not too noisy and will have an atmosphere conducive to the progress you hope to make in your meeting.
ELECTRONICS AND SOCIAL MEDIA
When is it acceptable to check your cell phone at the table? I get asked that question almost as often as my children asking me for rides or a raise in their allowance, which happens quite often. Always put the phone on vibrate or silent before the meal and give your client undivided attention. Keep your cell phone completely off the table. The ONLY exception to this rule is if you are expecting a call from a doctor. If this is the case, it is important to make your client aware beforehand that this call may come through.
Cell phones are generally just detrimental to meetings. That is why some businesses are now collecting all cell phones before everyone sits down.
Do not post information about your interview on Facebook or any other form of social media. Your potential employer can track this down and it definitely will not be for your benefit.
The number one reason a business lunch can go wrong is dressing too casually. Making a great first impression includes dressing appropriately for your meeting. Dress code does vary by career industry. For example, if you are meeting with a lawyer or someone in the financial industry, you probably want to wear a suit or a fancier dress and heels. However, if you are interviewing at Whole Foods, the dress code will be much more laid back. It is still never acceptable to show up to an interview in shorts, jeans or a tee shirt (or short skirts or short dresses for ladies). The Internet has great examples of what constitutes dress code from formal, to business casual, and so forth. Do your research beforehand and dress appropriately. Please make sure not to wear a hat at the dining table, ever. If you are unsure of what type of dress is acceptable in the field you are meeting, it is always best to be overdressed rather than underdressed.
THANK YOUS AND FOLLOW UP NOTES
Remember to always verbally say thank you at the end of the meal even if it did not go as well as you were hoping. You never know what can happen. One time, I had an interview that I thought went horribly wrong in my opinion, and was still offered the job. This is a good time to hand out your business card and make plans for follow up if you have not already.
Sending a handwritten thank you note is fabulous and proper after a meeting or interview. However, in some industries (e.g. law firms), hiring is done the same day as the interview. In this case, it is best to send a same-day thank you email as soon as possible after the meeting since hiring decisions may be made that day. Remember even if this is an informational interview and the employer doesn’t have a job right now, or you are just getting to know someone this can only make you stand out in a positive light!
There are hundreds of types of etiquette in addition to traditional table manners. This article focuses on etiquette skills for a business lunch. Stay tuned for more etiquette articles. See www.Facebook/PleasePassTheManners for other great etiquette tips and tricks, updated regularly.
Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands: How to do Business in Sixty Countries by Terri Morrison and Wayne A. Conway
The Art of Gratitude by John Kralick