Sunday, July 20, 2008

Business Cards Etiquette

Because the kinds of meetings discussed in this chapter are often occasions for handing around business cards, this is a good place to discuss them. Your business card is an important and personal part of your communications within the corporate culture, and you should know how and when to use it.
Business cards have three main uses:
  • They provide vital information about you—your name, your company, your title, and how you can be reached.
  • They can be clipped to a document, a photograph, a magazine, or anything you’re sending to someone who might find the information useful, letting the recipient know that you’re the sender and providing your contact information.
  • They can be used as enclosures in gifts or with flowers.
How and when to present your card:
  • Present your card with the type side up. When someone hands you a card, look at the person to connect card with face.
  • Don’t appear anxious to thrust your card on a senior executive. Wait until asked.
  • Be selective. If you are with a large group of people, don’t give your card to everyone. Doing so is pushy and creates the impression that you’re trying to sell something.
  • Some people give their business card to anyone they meet. Not a good idea. On the one hand, it’s irritating. On the other, you may regret supplying a stranger with your name and business address.
  • Be unobtrusive about giving someone your card at a social function. Think of this action as a private exchange between two individuals.
  • If your cards are soiled, damaged, or out-of-date, get new cards. It’s better to give no card than to give one that looks bad.
  • You never know when someone is going to ask for your business card, so carry a few with you at social as well as business functions. If you don’t have a card, apologize and write out the information on a piece of paper.
  • Whether you are dining at Joe’s Chili Joint or at a black-tie dinner, business cards should not surface during a meal. If asked, pass one as discreetly as possible. In fact, if the event has been billed as a social rather than business-related affair, you should be discreet about talking business at all. All business meetings—regardless of location (boardroom or dining room) and participants (your colleagues, your boss, or your employees)—require preparation, a healthy helping of respect for all present, and a knowledge of the basics of meeting etiquette.

Leaving a Business Meal

Escort your guests to the door. Shake hands and thank them for coming. Remind them about the next meeting, or if one has not yet been scheduled, say you will call them within a week. (And make sure that you do call within that time frame.) The guest should thank the host, praise the restaurant, and within two days, send a handwritten note. If your penmanship truly resembles Chinese algebra, you may type the note, but a handwritten note is infinitely more desirable. Under no circumstance should you fax or e-mail your thanks.

Paying Up the Business Meal

Settle the bill quietly with a credit card or with a large bill if you are paying cash. Don’t fiddle around with small bills or change.
It’s fine to review the bill for accuracy. You should have a fair idea of what the total should be before it arrives. In any case, don’t study the thing like the Dead Sea Scrolls. If you notice a discrepancy, deal with it after your guests leave. But please, no calculators at the table.
Nothing damages the effect of a smooth business meal as much as haggling over who should pay. Unfortunately, this situation is more apt to happen if the host is a woman and the guest is a man. If the subject arises, depersonalize it: “I invited you, and besides, XYZ company would like to take you to lunch.”
Another tactic that is especially helpful is to arrange beforehand for a credit card imprint and for the addition of 18 to 20 percent for tip. This strategy avoids the presentation of a check at the table. Before you leave the table, collect the checkroom tickets from your guests so that you can tip the attendant—at the rate of $1 per garment—on the way out.

Finishing Touches in Business Meal

Encourage your guests to have dessert when the server returns to the table from clearing the entrees. If they do, you do. If they don’t, you don’t—no matter how much you have been looking forward to that chocolate torte. Ask your guests if they would like coffee or tea. When it is served, ask for the check. Use this time to review your mealtime discussion: Make sure you understand whatever agreements have been reached and the follow-up steps you’ve decided upon.

Control and Damage Control During Business Meal

The host’s responsibility is to pay attention to the quality of the service and the food. Make sure your guests are served properly and have whatever condiments they might need.
If it looks like something is wrong, ask your guest. If it is, call the maître d’ and have the item replaced. If things are going badly, keep your cool. Do not engage in a confrontation with the server or the maître d’. Tell your guest: “I’m so sorry. The restaurant seems to be having a bad day.” Then deal with the manager later.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Ordering during Business Meals

If you don’t have drinks, spend 5 or 10 minutes talking before asking for menus. If you have drinks, offer your guest a refill. If the answer is no, ask for menus. If the answer is yes, ask for menus when the second round of drinks arrives. Now it’s time to order. Your dress-rehearsal exploration of the menu pays off now. Give your guests clues about your intentions by mentioning specialties and encouraging them to order appetizers. Have the server take the guests’ orders first and be sure to keep pace with your guests by ordering the same number of courses, whether you want them or not.
As a guest, you should feel free to ask, “What do you recommend here?” if the host has not given clues.
Be decisive! Neither the host nor guest should spend a long time poring over the menu. Steer clear of user-unfriendly items such as spaghetti, salads, large sandwiches, or anything that will be messy or difficult to eat.

Business Meal Drinks

The server will now ask if you want anything from the bar. Decline if your guest does. Order a drink if your guest does. It doesn’t have to be an alcoholic drink, and no explanations are necessary. You can remove any tinge of judgment about alcohol by using the convenient “today” tactic: “I’m not having wine today, but please do have some if you like.”

Dealing with Napkins

Your napkin will be on your plate or to the left of it. As soon as you are seated, place your napkin on your lap unfolded, or half open if it’s a large dinner napkin. Don’t tuck the napkin into your shirt or belt. It’s okay to bring the napkin up to your chest with sips of soup or sauce. If you leave the table for any reason, place the napkin on your chair and push the chair under the table. Watch the upholstery. You don’t want your gravy-stained napkin to soil the upholstered seat of a chair.

Business Meal Seating

Give the preferred seat to your guest. Usually that’s the one first pulled out by the maître d’, but if a chair isn’t pulled out, quickly decide which is the best seat (best view, most comfortable, and so on) and gesture to your guest to occupy it. Sit at right angles to your guest if possible. If you have two guests, try to avoid sitting between them, or you will feel as if you’re watching a tennis match, looking from one to the other in the course of conversation.
The host always stands when someone new joins the table and remains standing until the other person or persons is seated. If someone leaves the table, the host does not need to stand.

Business Meal Arrival

Get to the restaurant about 15 minutes early and check your coat. If you did not tip the maître d’ at the dress rehearsal, do so now. Wait for your guest near the door. If you must take your seat because there is no place to wait, leave your napkin on the table and don’t eat or drink anything until your guest arrives. In other words, the table should remain pristine. Stand up when your guest arrives and remain standing until he or she is seated.
If you are waiting for more than one guest, wait near the door, if possible, for 5 or 10 minutes; then tell the maître d’ you are expecting someone and ask to be seated. The ideal situation is for all of the guests to go to the table together, although this may not always be possible.