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Top 9 Ways to Effectively Entertain Clients

By Townes Haas   |    June 4, 2014   |    5:17 PM

Tips to On How to Properly Entertain Clients During Business Meals

Entertaining current and potential clients is an integral part of being an entrepreneur. These client breakfasts, lunches or dinners create opportunities to get to know each other on a more personal level while still having a business meeting. The difficulty with these mealtime meetings is that entrepreneurs need to show that they’re knowledgeable about their business, but still are able to converse on other subjects.

“To succeed in business, it is as important to understand the etiquette of entertaining in your dining room or a restaurant as it is to know how to negotiate in the board room.” This quote from Phyllis Cambria and Patty Sachs sums up how much these off-hour “meetings” are really needed – and how entrepreneurs need proper entertaining etiquette - to be successful in business.

The Do's & Don’ts of Client Entertainment

Good hosting manners may not be innate to many people, but entrepreneurs can use the tips below as a guide to entertaining clients.

  1. Do confirm the appointment long before the day and time of the event: Clients are busy and may forget their appointment. Call and confirm the event ahead of time, preferably the day before.

  2. Don’t pick the newest or hottest restaurant: The trendy restaurant might sound like a good choice to impress clients, but others will also be vying to try it. This means that service could be slow, and the restaurant could be noisy, making it difficult to talk business. Plus, just because it’s new or hot doesn’t mean that the food is good. Entrepreneurs are taking a risk eating at places that they’ve never tried before. Picking a restaurant that has been visited previously also means that the host can give food and drink recommendations.

  3. Do turn off all devices: Clients should receive the host’s undivided attention. Don’t let the latest email or phone call cause interruptions.

  4. Don’t be late: Everyone’s meetings run over, or people forget that there’s always a major traffic backup on the corner of Broadway and 10th. The host can’t. He must arrive on time, preferably even before his guests get there. Clients appreciate people that respect their time; everyone has a schedule that they’re trying to stick to. If the host is running late, call the restaurant and make sure the clients get seated.

  5. Do wear power gear: While it may seem like an informal meeting outside the board room, this is still a meeting, and business attire is still required.

  6. Don’t let the conversation lag: There’s always a break in conversation when a particular subject has been completed. If this lasts more than a few seconds, it could turn into an awkward silence. Have a list of subjects on hand that can keep the conversation going. The host must be a good conversationalist, or the meeting will go downhill fast.

  7. Do have good manners: According to Jonathan Swift, “Good manners is the art of making those people easy with whom we converse. Whoever makes the fewest people uneasy is the best bred in the room.” And an entrepreneur’s goal should be to make his guests feel at ease. So, don’t talk with your mouth full. Do keep your napkin on your lap. Know the proper etiquette for using silverware – working from the outside in. Don’t take food from other people’s plates. Do sit up straight.

  8. Don’t let the guest pay for it: Never let invited guests pay for the meal. That’s the job of the host.

  9. Do know when to end the meeting: Unlike traditional meetings, outside entertaining can run for several hours. Entrepreneurs should pay for the meal and some of the drinks. Yet if the drinking continues long into the evening, then the host should ask for the check and effectively end the meeting. Anything ordered after the check is paid has to be picked up by someone else.
Client entertaining gives entrepreneurs and clients the opportunity to bond. Matt Hall, cofounder of Hill Investment Group in St. Louis, says that lunch is where he and his team “bond best”. This can also be true for entrepreneurs and clients. Above all, clients respect business people that know how to be professional in any situation. Take the opportunity of a business breakfast, luncheon or dinner to outshine competition.
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