Business Etiquette Week: The Conversation Sandwich

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When entertaining clients over coffee, lunch or dinner, think about your mealtime conversation as a sandwich; the small, or social, talk will be the bread, and the meat of the conversation will be the business.  People want to do business with friends, people they “like”, and people with whom they feel comfortable.  The small talk helps you to get to know your guest/client a little bit better, before digging into the business at hand.  At the conclusion of the meal, wrap things up with a bit of small (social) talk to aid in building the “relationship”.

When should business be discussed during the meal?  If it’s a breakfast, lunch, or coffee meeting; time is of the essence.  Your conversational sandwich will more than likely need to have consist more “meat” than “bread”.  Once the order has been placed, this usually allows for a smooth transition to business.  If it’s a business dinner, spouses (or dates) are often involved which tends to be more of a social outing leaving your sandwich a bit heavy on the small talk.  You want to keep the conversation comfortable for all, by spending too much time on business, the spouses may feel excluded, feeling left “out of the loop”.

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