Friday, June 20, 2008

How to Determine Business Meal Timing

After you establish the date of your business meal, clear your calendar. Rushing to get there on time or rushing at any point in the process can ruin your efforts to establish just the right atmosphere. And, while allowing plenty of your time, pace the meal with respect for the schedules of your guests. If it is a breakfast meeting, confirm the afternoon before and give your guest your home telephone number in case of an emergency. For a lunch or dinner meeting, call to confirm in the morning of that day. If, for any reason, the meeting is cancelled, call the restaurant right away.

How to compose a proper business meal invitations

One of the most important elements of a gracious invitation to a business meal is choice: Whenever possible, offer your potential guest a chance to contribute to the time and place of the meal. Here is how a typical conversation might go when you are calling to invite someone to a business meal:

“Hello, Nick, this is Mary Mitchell. I’m calling to invite you to lunch to talk about our upcoming program. Is that something you’d like to do?” “Sure. Sounds good.”
“How about Thursday or Friday?”
“Friday would be better.”
“Fine. How does Benjamin’s or The Wharf sound to you?”
“Which do you prefer?”
“The Wharf sounds good.”
“Would 12:00 or 12:30 be more convenient?”
“Fine. I’ll make the reservation. Do you prefer smoking or nonsmoking?”
“Nonsmoking, please.”
“Great. I’ll see you on Friday at 12:30 at The Wharf.”

If you are inviting more than one guest, and Nick is the most important, provide information about the other guests after the “Sure. Sounds good” and before settling details about time and place: “I’d like also to invite Megan Newman and Nancy Love, who will be working with us on the program. Okay?” Then, when you call Megan, say: “Nick and I are having lunch Friday at The Wharf.
I was hoping you and Nancy could join us.”

Meeting Dress Rehearsal

Visit the restaurant a day or two before the meeting. Have a good look at the room. Is it too large? Too noisy? Look for a table in a good position and reserve it if possible. Familiarize yourself with the menu and the house specialties. Introduce yourself to the maître d’ or manager. Set up a corporate account or allow the manager to take a credit card imprint. Let the manager know that you may be ordering wine, depending upon the preference of your guests. Let him or her know what your price range is and ask for recommendations. Tip the maître d’ when you leave, usually $10 or $20, depending upon the level of the restaurant. Make the reservation in your name and your company’s name. You want to emphasize that your event is a business meal. Make it quite clear that this meeting is important, that you are willing to pay for (and expect) top service, and that you—and possibly your associates—will be returning if all goes well.

Ten Commandments of Business Meal

Here’s a handy list of no-no’s to consult before every business meal:
➤ Thou shalt not jump straight into business talk.
➤ Thou shalt not be late.
➤ Thou shalt not table-hop.
➤ Thou shalt not talk politics, diet, or family.
➤ Thou shalt not dominate conversation.
➤ Thou shalt not dawdle over ordering or eating.
➤ Thou shalt not drink too much alcohol.
➤ Thou shalt not fight over who pays the bill.
➤ Thou shalt not neglect thy table manners.
➤ Thou shalt not forget to show appreciation.

Business Meals Etiquette

No, a business meal is not just a meeting with food. It’s a test, really. It spotlights your social skills, your ability to plan and organize, and your level of sophistication. Take these occasions very, very seriously, and prepare for them carefully. Assume that you will be the host of a business lunch or dinner. Seeing the situation from the point of view of the host will make you a more knowledgeable and confident guest.
The host must decide, up front, that the best way to accomplish the agenda is to control the process from beginning to end. The host’s job is to eliminate distractions and to keep the focus on the purpose of the meal.
Here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
  • Don’t experiment. Save that for when you are feeling adventurous. Instead, frequent a couple of good restaurants and become known as a “regular.” Become familiar with the menu. Get to know the maître d’ or manager.
  • Don’t be a big spender. Except for celebrations, extravagance shows bad manners and bad strategy in the business arena. Pick a quality restaurant known for its reliable service. Don’t show off by consistently ordering the most expensive choices in food and wine. Your guests might feel they have to reciprocate, and they are likely to conclude that you are reckless with money—and therefore apt to be reckless in other areas.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

How to create a meeting agenda?

The agenda should include all items to be discussed along with the amount of time to be devoted to each. It should be written so that the most important items are handled first, in case the meeting runs short. Make sure that everyone has a copy of the agenda well in advance of the meeting.

Here is a sample agenda:

TO: Marketing and public relations staff

FROM: Chairman’s name

PURPOSE: Meeting, Wednesday, February 28, 2–4 P.M.

(If the meeting is to take place at mealtime, such as 8–10 A.M., or during lunch or dinner, say something like “Sandwiches and beverages will be provided.”) PLACE: Conference room, 10th floor AGENDA:

  1. Review quarterly goals and action plan (30 minutes)
    • Summary by public relations director on achievements
    • Report by publicity assistant on upcoming media coverage
  2. Discuss upcoming media opportunities (15 minutes)
  3. Establish priorities for next six months (10 minutes)
  4. Open discussion (20 minutes)
  5. Conclusion, summary, and action plan assignments (20 minutes)

Remember These Details During Meeting

In some cases the use of formal name cards is appropriate. They should be two-sided so people across the table can read them. Name tags should bear the first and last names, without Mr., Ms., or Mrs. Use Dr. if appropriate. Put out plenty of pads, paper, pencils, sticky notes, paper clips, rubber bands, and tape. Also, find out in advance if you will need a lectern, a microphone, a blackboard or whiteboard, a flip chart, audiovisual aids, or a photocopier. If you are serving snacks, avoid greasy items like chips and Danish pastries and too much caffeine and sugar. They can make people sluggish and/or on edge. Always provide a decaffeinated, low-fat, healthy alternative. Make sure water glasses, pitchers, or bottles of water are close by.

Etiquette when chairing the meeting

If you are chairing the meeting, pick a time that’s convenient for everyone. If possible, avoid scheduling a meeting first thing Monday morning or late Friday afternoon. People are often occupied and/or distracted at these times. In addition, give plenty of notice. Two weeks is an ideal minimum.
Decide on the seating. Remember that the two seats on either side of the chairperson are considered the most significant seats.
Create an atmosphere in which frank, open discussion is not only safe, but encouraged. If things get heated, it’s your job to keep order and mediate any conflicts. Keep the spirit of the meeting positive. Don’t criticize or chastise. Avoid undermining authority by hotly disagreeing with someone who outranks you, particularly your boss. Consider the schedules and jobs of the participants. Make sure all paperwork is distributed well in advance. Provide breaks so that people can make telephone calls and use the restrooms.
At the end of the meeting, give credit to those who deserve it. Also, write a précis of the meeting within 48 hours, distribute it to the participants, and set the date for the next meeting.

Teleconferencing Etiquette

You can inadvertently put on a display of bad manners unless you are clued in to the new rules for the electronic meeting place.
  • Be prepared. Bring everything you might need to the meeting. You don’t want people to be staring at a blank screen while you go to fetch something.
  • Dress down. The camera can distort bright colors, and bright tones and patterns will come across more intensely. Pale blue shirts are better than white. The camera will compensate for the brightness of a white shirt, making your face look darker. The camera doesn’t like white, so you might want to take notes on blue paper.
  • Think details. Take it easy on the makeup and jewelry. Men should minimize five-o’clock shadow.
  • Sit up straight. Posture is more important than ever.
  • Don’t look at the monitor. Speak to the camera lens. Stay within the range of the camera. When you move out of camera range, people wonder what you’re doing.
Teleconferencing has become so commonplace that a rehearsal or two is a good investment of time and money. Gather some colleagues and stage a meeting. The tape should provide some important tips and insights.

Speak Up

Think before you speak and keep what you say as brief and to the point as possible. Avoid confrontational language and public criticism. Establishing battle lines helps no one. Say, “I disagree because it seems to me that …” instead of “You’re wrong. If you took time to read the report, you would know that ….” Don’t interrupt someone who is speaking. No matter how much you disagree, wait for the speaker to make his or her point before interjecting your opinion. In addition, remember that it’s better to make recommendations and suggestions than to give orders or take inflexible positions.
Other points to bear in mind:
  • Use positive language. Don’t introduce your points apologetically. “This might be a bad idea, but ….”
  • Use the editorial “we.” When discussing the work and position of your department or company, don’t take personal credit for things when they’re going well if you are not willing to take personal responsibility for them when they’re going poorly.
  • Use proper titles. Use an honorific to refer to others in the meeting, even though you may be on a first-name basis at other times. Say, “Mr. Daniels just made the point that …”; don’t say, “Tom here thinks ….”