Tuesday, October 9, 2018

How to Make the Best Impression Possible at Your Next Lunch Meeting

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Lunch meetings offer more than just food. They’re social and allow you to interact with potential clients or business partners in an atmosphere that’s both convivial and comfortable. It’s easy to overthink a lunch meeting (what to wear, where to eat, etc.), so I’ve put together this list to help you through the basics.

The first step in scheduling a lunch meeting is deciding on where to eat and when. Two caveats: first, you can say your schedule is a little flexible but don’t necessarily give up the whole hog and say you're free “whenever.” That both looks a little desperate and gives the suggestion that you don’t have anything else to do. Secondly, pick a place (or give your lunch date the option of picking a place) close to them. You might even want to Google their area to find hyper-local places to meet and make some suggestions based on that. If you know they are vegan or keep a strict diet, catering to this insider knowledge will help show your lunch prospect that you pay attention to detail.

Consider Location
Think about how you want to come off when you extend an invitation. If you choose a place that is too strange (for instance, a Tim Burton pop up restaurant) you may come off on the more creative side. This is your meeting and you want to play to their expectations. See yourself and your decisions through their eyes.

Cafés are casual settings where you can chat over coffee for ages, if the conversation warrants it, or you can cut the lunch meeting down if it’s not going so well. Ensure that restaurants have a decent lunch menu and the service is solid (Yelp can help you make those decisions). Pick a place that doesn’t take forever to seat you and serve you. Also, ask for the check before the conversation starts running out of steam.

Try and avoid bars, steak joints and high-end restaurants. Taking your lunch partner to a fancy restaurant can come across as trying too hard. It’s also a distraction. Do you want their attention or would you rather share it with the menu, décor and the people-watching? And just because you know what cutlery to use first doesn’t mean they do.

Prepare Accordingly
Now you’ve selected your place to eat, make sure to send them a brief, friendly reminder the day before to ensure they’ve not forgotten. If for some reason you don’t have access to their email, call them and leave a polite and short message.

Before the actual lunch date takes place, you’re going to want to prepare for it, too. Brush up on things like your elevator pitch, their work information (and personal information only if it’s not too deep and something you can bond over). Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I know what I want to say/ask?
  • Do I have a business suit cleaned and ready to go?
  • Do I have any samples that I need to bring?
  • Have I called ahead for a reservation?

Once you’re ready to go, get there about 10 minutes early so you can breathe easier and not stress. If your lunch date is late, give them at least 15 minutes before reaching out to confirm lunch is still happening.

The lunch meeting itself should focus initially on small talk. Put your phone away to show that you’re not interested in talking to anyone else and that you’re focused entirely on your lunch partner. Once the conversation has been running for a while, gently broach the main topic for your get-together.

Some other tips:

  • Don’t order food that might make a mess.
  • Don’t begin eating until everyone has been served.
  • If the other person is paying, don’t order the most expensive things on the menu.
  • Keep your elbows off the table and chew with your mouth closed (that way you can’t talk while you’re chewing either).
  • Avoid ordering alcohol, unless your lunch date orders a drink first.

When talking, remember not to get too relaxed (after all, lunch venues are, by their nature, intimate). It's still a business meeting. As for the nature of the conversation, remember, everyone loves talking about themselves. So don’t just ask about them -- follow through with it. The person who asked for the meeting is the one who should pick up the check. So if this one’s on you, ask for the bill and/or put your credit card firmly down with a smile.

Source: https://www.inc.com
Image Credit: Getty Images

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