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Definition: A business meal where the chief object is building the business relationship. Although business is usually conducted or discussed, the prime benefit of business dining is the opportunity it affords to get to know each other better and cement business relationships.
Why are business dining skills so important to your career and life?
A very successful engineer shared the following personal story.
I enjoy dining with clients and use it as a way to build relationships and referrals. But I wasn’t always so polished at the table. I was lucky, because early in my career I had a supportive and honest boss who told me how poor my table manners were.
He said “You know your stuff. You dress professionally but I’m embarrassed to take you to lunch with clients unless you take some business dining skills training.” That training was one of the best things I ever did. I cringe when I realize how awkward I was at the table.
Wow. what an honest mentor! What if you don’t have someone to assess your skills? How can you tell if you need some dining etiquette help? What’s the one crucial table manners skill you should focus on first?
Business dining etiquette is more than just good table manners. There are all sorts of considerations that are different from social dining; such as how to seat clients or business groups. When and how should you get down to business.
#1 looking classy at the table tip
But if we were to give you one tip that would help you immediately look better at the table; whether you were social or business dining, it would be how you hold your knife and fork.
Even though we do a lot of business dining etiquette training and lunch keynotes and have a top rated Dining for Success online course, we haven’t got around to teaching every one in the world. (At least not yet.)
So your dining companions may not know all the table manners rules, but there is one thing that everybody knows. Even if they are not familiar with all the etiquette rules, they know what awkward looks like. So how can you tell if you look awkward at the table?
What is the most obvious thing that makes you look awkward at the table? Well, holding your knife and fork in an unusual way when you cut your food, is probably top of the list. It’s right there in front of everyone’s face.
Below are some photos to easily self-check how you hold your silverware.
These are the four most common strange ways that people hold their eating utensils. Pick up a knife and fork, pretend to cut something and check your grip against the photos below.
Holding your cutlery like children. Watch little kids, this is often the way they eat. If you want to be a 10 at the business lunch, don’t let your table manners make you look like you’re five.
Fists clenched on your knife or fork, make you look like the incredible (or inedible) Hulk or you’re a convict on Orange is the New Black. Not the best impression when business dining for a job interview.
Holding your utensils like they were drumsticks. It looks like you’re ready to bang out a beat as the next Buddy Rich or Dave Grohl, which is ok if you’re auditioning for the Whiplash movie. Not so great if you’re dining with your boss and looking for a promotion.
Holding your knife and fork with your wrists cocked at sharp angles. We know it’s a bit cramped eating in airline economy/coach section. If you hold your cutlery like this, it looks like you might not be ready for business class.
So if you want to look smooth like you know what you’re doing when social or business dining, try to hold your knife and fork as illustrated in the photo below.
Your index or pointing fingers should extend down the handles. Your left and right hand should look similar to each other. Your forearms and wrists should not be cocked at a sharp angle but should be held fairly straight.
Don’t feel too bad if your grip matches one of the bad examples. Many of us weren’t brought up with parents who had exceptional dining skills (and even if we were, we probably tuned them out).
Unfortunately, bad dining habits have been ingrained an awfully long time, probably since you’ve been eating at your highchair. So you’re not going to change overnight.
But if you’re eating regularly, you have plenty of opportunities to practice. At every meal, pretend that you are dining out, even if you’re eating on a TV tray, watching Game of Thrones. Practice, like they say, makes perfect.
Think of all the important times you dine out for work and socially: job interviews, dates, client entertaining, weddings, business lunches, parties, service clubs, social functions, conferences etc.
Why not look confident and classy at the table. Make the best impression you can. After all your social and business dining skills are part of your successful personal brand.
For easy ways to learn all you need about business dining etiquette or smooth table manners, check out our 40 minute online video dining course (rated #1 by The Wall Street Journal) or our e-book Executive Image Power.
Article by Joanne Blake - the Canadian business etiquette expert and corporate image consultant