We have all attended the big business luncheons, usually to hear a speaker or watch an award ceremony. You walk into the room to see a sea of people. You need to find your table number or table name. Sometimes you get lucky and there are either greeters who will direct you, or a chart with numbers. As you nervously make your way to the table, you think to yourself, should I mingle or go right to my table? I often suggest that if your intention is to meet people, you may want to arrive early and network with the crowd before they head to their seats. Once people are heading to their seats the room can be difficult to navigate, best to make your way to your seat.
Once you have found your seat you will notice that you are sitting at a table of eight people. Take advantage How many of you take advantage of this and speak to the guests around the table? Do you sit silently waiting for the program to start? Or do you speak with the person next to you whom you already know? I know it can be scary speaking to strangers. How do you break the ice? What do you say without being to forward? After all you don’t want to start with “Hi I am so and so and I sell XYZ”. One of the ice breakers I always use is to play a game, I go around the table and say, what do you think the vegetable will be? I know we are getting chicken because we always get chicken, but the vegetable is the real game changer. This puts people at ease, after each person says their choice, you can continue the conversation about vegetables, or go into hi, my name is Angella etc.
Well you made it past the introductions, but now comes the really scary part. Your stomach is in knots, your nerves are frayed and you’re not even the speaker, you just want some bread and a sip of water. Which plate do I place my bread on? Which glass do I drink from? Here are a few tips to get you through, if you take your index finger and pinch your thumb with it, you form the letter b on your left hand; doing the same with your right hand you form the letter d, the letter b stands for bread and d for drink. You can easily do this under the table so no one sees you. When you reach for that bread plate this will be on your left and water on the right. This will help end the confusion. You will see the person next to you smile, most likely they were sitting there waiting for someone to go first.
If you have food allergies, you can call ahead and ask what they are serving. If it is something you can not eat, ask them to substitute it for you,. For those of us who intend to call, but don’t quite make it, as soon as you arrive find a server and ask them to make the switch. This way your meal will come out with everyone else’s and you will not have to sit and watch everyone eat.
If there is a presentation during the lunch, you should keep the social chatting to a minimum. Even if you are not interested in what is being said, the other guests at the table may. If there is no program, then feel free to talk to the people on the left or right of you. Try and avoid conversation with the people across from you, this can get a bit loud.
Once you are finished with your meal, place the knife and fork across the plate, this will help to let the wait staff know that you are finished. When they are serving coffee, if you do not wish to have any, simply turn your cup upside down.
A final piece of event etiquette is when you arrive to the event; kindly turn your cell phone to vibrate. There is nothing more embarrassing than having your phone go off in the middle of the presentation.