We all know that communication includes both verbal and non-verbal elements; however, I want to bring your attention to a part of one of the non-verbals many people seem to forget. The environment. Yes, the environment.
Selecting the right environment for your meetings, functions or events is just as important as selecting the right wine or conversation topic. Are you really confident about your selections that you frequent with your clients? Do you know and trust every place you go? Can you afford to lose potential business because you didn’t do a little research? So, before taking your clients anywhere to dine, drink or people watch start to pretend you are like a location scout on a film. Try restaurants, nicer restaurants, pubs, nicer pubs, bars, nicer bars, cafes and nicer cafes in your area. Know your neighbourhood and start to create brain file notes of appropriate places that you trust and know to take clients, colleagues, investors, in-laws and well, anyone.
Here are just a few reasons on why I use the words “trust” and “know” when referring to locations:
- Know trading times as you don’t want to go to a bar and they call ‘Last Drinks’ just as you all take the first sip.
- The restaurant wait staff might be notoriously rude.
- The restaurant may be too refined/”pompous” for your client’s taste. You should be able to read your client and if you feel they would be more comfortable talking business while having a pub meal then give your client what they want…. The client will not be at ease in an environment that they can’t relax in and thus will not be concentrating on the meeting’s purpose as they are too busy wondering what food he actually ordered because everything on the menu was in French.
- Some venues have special nights. Example: student nights, ladies night, special adult nights. You might like the look of an inner city bar but your HR manager might not believe you when you say that you didn’t know it turned into a topless waitress night after 9pm on Tuesdays.
So start making that list of places for you and your clients. You do not want your client/boss/in-laws being uncomfortable and wanting the meal to end so they can leave. Etiquette is not just about food and wine, it is all about making your guest comfortable in your presence and this includes selecting the right environment.
Last point, once you find your “trust and know” places then make sure you are always up to date with the menus. Most change seasonally. Do not take guests to fine dining if you don’t know how half of the menu reads and you are constantly having to ask what each item is. Know what you will order before your meeting and know what all the options are so you are not asking for an itemised list of all the dishes.