Preparing for a Lunch Meeting

28 Feb

The one-on-one lunch meeting can oftentimes be intimidating. For me I fear having nothing to talk about or having long, drawn-out silences that send my heart pounding. For others they may fear fumbling over their words or saying the wrong thing. Whatever your fears, you are not alone. The one-on-one meeting with someone you have never met should be a little awkward. How often do we really go sit down with people we don’t know? While some people may tell you not to worry because it is “just lunch,” the truth is that it is never “just lunch.” People don’t just go have lunch with people they don’t know for no reason, but this fact doesn’t have to scare you. Here are some tips for conquering your first lunch meeting.

1.  Prepare Ahead of Time.

The first thing you should do to get ready for a lunch meeting is to get familiar with the restaurant you will be meeting at. If it is in a location you haven’t been before you might want to check it out before the meeting. I find that if I go scope something about before the actual event I feel less nervous the day of. If you are like me, seeing the parking situation, the restaurant, and knowing your way around the cross-streets may ease your nerves a bit. This is especially important if you are meeting someone for a lunch interview.

2.  Arriving On Time.

The first rule you need to remember for every lunch meeting is to BE ON TIME. Remember, if you are early you are on time. If you are on time you are late. If you are late don’t bother coming. On top of the fact that being punctual is a necessity in every business occasion, it is never nice to keep your host waiting by themselves. You wouldn’t want them to regret asking you to lunch, would you?

To be on the safe side it is a good idea to leave a little earlier and plan for traffic. I always try to get to a lunch meeting about thirty minutes early. This allows me time to gather myself and use the restroom if I need to.

3.  Waiting For Your Host.

If you arrive earlier than your host you can either take a seat at the table or wait in the bar area. If the bar area is far away from the entrance of the restaurant I would recommend taking a seat at the table. Remember, just because you are in the bar area DOES NOT mean you can have an alcoholic beverage.

The second rule you need to remember for every lunch meeting is to NEVER, NEVER, NEVER have alcohol. I don’t care if your host orders a drink and suggests that you order one too. If you are trying to land a client or the job you need to be on your best behavior. You cannot take the chance that alcohol may make you stumble over your words or have a brain-fart.

If you do decide to take a seat at the table you can go ahead and order your water or soft drink. Don’t worry, it’s not rude.

4.  Navigating the Conversation.

Once your host arrives allow them to lead the conversation. While you may be antsy to get to the, “So, why are we here?” part of the conversation, you shouldn’t be the one to bring that up. If they want to get right down to business then go ahead, but it is likely that they will engage in a little “small talk” before they get down to business.

To be prepared to engage in “small talk” with your host, it may be good for you to do some reasearch on him/her. Find out what your hosts interests are and where they have worked. Learn about their background and anything else that may help you in those moments of awkward silence. The more you know about the host the easier the “small talk” will be.

If your host is a male, try to stay on topic as much as you can. As we all know, men can be single-minded and focused on one subject at a time. This means that they have a hard time jumping from subject to subject without getting irritated. Remember the last time you asked your significant other to go shopping with you? Do you also remember how annoyed he got when you looked at the cute new summer dresses when you told him that you were shopping for shoes? The point is that men like to stay on point, so if you are speaking to a male be cognizant of that fact.

5. Ordering Food and Eating.

When ordering food make sure that you order food that is easy to eat. Can you imagine talking to an interviewer or someone who is about to invest $1 million in your business when you have food falling out of your mouth? Avoid foods that you have to eat with your hands or that have a tendency to splatter. It is best to get something light and easy to eat, such as a salad, or something that can be cut neatly with a knife and fork.

If your food comes out differently than you ordered, like your salad has dressing on it when you ordered your dressing on the side, don’t complain about. The last thing you want is for your host to think that you didn’t like the restaurant. If it is a place where you normally would never eat, suck it up and order something. Just go with the flow and make the host think that you are enjoying your meal. Chances are that they really like the restaurant themselves.  

When your meal is finished and your server asks you if you would like coffee, follow the host’s lead. Nothing is more annoying than waiting for that person who orders a cappuccino when everyone is ready to go.

6.  The Bill.

If the host is the one that invited you out to lunch for a specific purpose, such as an interview or to engage you for business purposes, the host should always pay the bill. While this part of any meal can definitely be awkward, you shouldn’t make it any more awkward than it has to be. There is no need to offer to pay or continue the conversation while he is paying if it has fizzled.

7.  Thank You’s.

The last rule you need to remember is to say THANK YOU when the meal is finished. It is also important that you follow the verbal thank you with an actual thank you note. This note can be via email or by regular mail.

* * *

I know that the lunch meeting can be tricky and intimidating for those of you who are a little shy, but it is not impossible. With a little guidance from me and some confidence you can nail the meeting or interview and leave a great, lasting impression. Good luck!

2 Responses to “Preparing for a Lunch Meeting”

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