Business dinners are the perfect way to merge personal and professional, giving you a chance to get to know the other side a little better. People often make the mistake of thinking that a more laid-back event such as this requires little preparation. There's more to a business dinner than simply showing up on time!
Firstly, you need to choose the right venue. There's another eqWIPPD module on the subject titled 'Where should you host a business dinner?', so read up on that before you start looking around.
Next, research the person or people you are going to meet. Look into their CVs to find out where they've previously worked, whether there are any overlaps in your professional interests and backgrounds. Finding out about their leisure interests can be a little trickier, but people sometimes list those things on either their CV or LinkedIn profile.
If you're meeting more than two people, plan your seating in advance. You want the person you consider the most important to the relationship seated as close to you as possible.
Finally, have some topics of small talk ready to deploy if a silence stretches on into the awkward zone. Avoid potentially controversial subjects such as politics, or 'bland' topics such as the weather. Have some questions lined up which will put them at ease and allow them to open up a bit more – 'Which university did you study at?' or 'Have you travelled much?'
Going in feeling prepared means you'll be more relaxed, and your relaxed but professional behaviour will set the tone for the evening.
Choose the right venue
Research the other side
Plan your seating arrangements
Have some small talk up your sleeve