“Let’s break bread,” was once a popular phrase but you don’t hear it too much any more. It’s still the preferred way to get to know people in the business world, to bond with colleagues from other departments, close deals with clients, work out issues with partners, and build trust. It works, but not by magic. When you have in mind doing business over a meal, you have to do your homework.

How you behave at table has a lot to do with the success of these encounters. Like everything else, if you know the basics, you can then concentrate on the most important things – the people and the deal.

The basics to making this successful is that it is an event, you are the host, and nothing should be left to chance. Make sure you set a date you won’t have to cancel, and do you homework. Ultimately leave nothing to chance, but make it appear that it’s all relaxed once you get there.

Here are some tips to make it easier for you:

1. The honoring invitation.

I’ve gotten many “we’ll have to have lunch sometime” throwaways in my life, haven’t you? It’s planting the seed, but the real invitation should sound like one. Call or write a week in advance for dinner, and a couple of days ahead for a lunch. Beginnings matter. Call the morning of the date and confirm. This shows you mean business and is also respectful. They will appreciate the gesture.

Include in the invitation, directions to the place you have in mind, and make sure it’s convenient. See below.

2. Choosing the Place.

Get this off your “worry list” by finding one place that will always work. Join a club if you can. If not, do your research and select one restaurant that you know has it all. And what is “it all”? NO SURPRISES. A maitre d’ who’s responsive, predictably excellent food and service, convenient location with good parking, something easy for your guest to locate, and the right ambiance.

You must have a place where you can hear one another talk and where there are no distractions such as a noisy kitchen, waiters who shout, entertainment, or the kind of view that mesmerizes. You have to be able to hold the focus where it needs to be.

Then get yourself “known” there. It makes a great impression to be greeted by your name when you enter, and you know how to grease the palm around this sort of entrance.

3. Know your table manners.

You don’t want to be fumbling around over a single thing! There are numerous etiquette sites you can visit, and please do so. Here is one that does a good job of covering the essentials: http://www.askandyaboutclothes.com/Lifestyle/proper_table_manners.htm .

You will make a great impression if you know, for instance, that you never use a knife around the bread. That’s out title here – we’re breaking bread. You break off a piece and butter each piece individually. Know what to do with the silverware, the napkin, the glasses, the salt and pepper (they’re “married,” you know)!

4. Get their first.

It’s your job as the hostess. If there’s anything awry, you want to know it sooner, rather than later. For instance, if the restaurant should be closed, or having an emergency, which can happen, you can have the next one lined up and be ready to whisk your guests off the to next one, acting like it’s all in a day’s work. It’s also a good time to slip a twenty to the matire d’ and to give your credit card to the waiter, find just the right table, make a last-minute dash to the ladies’ room to freshen your makeup, get your briefcase settled and be ready to greet your guests as they arrive with welcoming arms, a relaxed demeanor, and a big smile.

5. Be the host or hostess.

These people are your guests and this means you look after them. They get the best seat and the best view. Think of the little things. Women don’t like to sit in blinding daylight (seat them with their back to the window if there’s one near). No one likes to stare into a mirror, do they? You help them with their coats and make the conversation work. You do some of this openly, and some of it subtly and surreptitiously. I remember when a gentleman I was dining with swiped his crisp white shirt-sleeve through the bitter-sweet chocolate of his dessert. I quietly slipped him a cleaner pad from my purse (I think of everything) and boy was he appreciative. I did NOT do this in any way that called attention to what was going on. It should be added that this gesture was predicated upon the age of the man, his position, and my knowledge of his personality. This would not be appropriate in another circumstance. That's the tricky part and it relies on well-developed intuition (an EQ competency).

If you want to be a real pro, know exactly what to say and do when the guest of honor knocks over his wine glass, or the waiter spills au jus on her dress.

You must be in charge of the liquor consumption, the time and the timing, and all the logistics, which brings up the next point.

6. Get Help.

The good host or hostess takes it seriously. They watch, study, ask and learn. I’ve learned most of the great tips I know by watching these things handled well or poorly, which you know by the results! Having been a fund-raiser, constantly on the circuit, I’ve seen it all, and learned from some real masters. That particular job involved going to events sometimes twice a day.

There are resources on the Internet, and also coaches who can put you leap-years ahead in your knowledge of this important area. Only with knowledge and experience can you look suave and polished and only when you feel suave and polished can you put others at ease, which is your goal.

Don’t leave it to chance. It’s too important.

Author's Bio: 

©Susan Dunn, MA, EQ Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc. Susan offers coaching, Internet courses and ebooks to make your personal and professional live a success. She offers “Networking for Introverts,” and several ezines. She trains and certifies EQ coaches. Mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc for information.

©Susan Dunn, MA, EQ Coach, http://www.susandunn.cc . Susan offers coaching, Internet courses and ebooks to make your personal and professional live a success. She offers “Networking for Introverts,” and several ezines. She trains and certifies EQ coaches. Mailto:sdunn@susandunn.cc for information.

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