7 ways to make a great impression during a client dinner with your boss

Like any business meeting, your first challenge, if given the opportunity, is to make a strong decision on which colleagues will accompany you to dinner.

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Entertaining clients can be part of your job description and these meetings can often involve your boss.

Here are ways experts say you can shine and impress your boss while dining out with clients.


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Think carefully about who is invited

If you’re in charge of organizing, pay careful attention to whom you include.

“Like any business meeting, your first challenge, if given the opportunity, is to make a strong decision on which colleagues will accompany you,” says Carolyn Aberman, managing partner in the legal division for Lucas Group, a recruiting firm based in Atlanta. “You want to make sure that you are hitching yourself to a coworker who will be similarly charming and professional.”

Study your attendees in advance

Knowing who will be present puts you in a better position.

“While we all strive to listen and remember names when being introduced to new people, it can be challenging to consistently remember everyone’s names and positions,” Aberman says. “If you know everyone’s name ahead of time, you can win points by addressing them directly.”

Have an informal agenda in mind

Aberman recommends doing your research prior to the dinner.

“Know who you are meeting and have ideas of topics you want to discuss as well as topics you know you need to avoid,” she says. Keep in mind they are also off-limit topics to avoid. “Business dinners are no place to discuss politics or other subjects that could create personal conflict,” she says.

On the other hand, it is a great time to bring up a recent win for that client – even better if you assisted in that victory.

“It’s a positive to demonstrate that you are following, and celebrating, your client’s successes,” Aberman says.

Implement the art of small talk

Once at the venue and sitting down, the key is to focus on making everyone feel welcome and included.

“Ask people about themselves and their interests – if the client wants to discuss work-related topics, then you follow their lead, but otherwise make sure to ask questions that will really give you a chance to get to know them,” Aberman recommends. “Ask about where they grew up, went to college or grad school, and what led them to their current company and position. In turn, when someone poses a question to you, make sure to give sincere and personal answers, while taking great care to avoid any stories that are inappropriate or potentially embarrassing to you or others.”

Mind your alcohol intake

Another excellent tip is to be very mindful of your alcohol intake.

“There is nothing more self-sabotaging than becoming over intoxicated in the presence of professional peers,” says Shelby Ring, CEO, Ruby Riot Creatives, a digital marketing firm in Charleston, South Carolina. “So be very aware of your alcohol intake, even if your boss or the clients are boozing it up, know that it does not make you ‘cooler’ in this moment to go over your edge to keep up.”

Be kind to the restaurant staff

Always treat the restaurant personnel and your dinner companions with respect and courtesy. And, be sure not to discuss service issues during the meal. Regardless of how well or poor the service is, always tip the hostess and your servers at the top of the normal range, recommends Laura Handrick, careers and workplace analyst with Fit Small Business.

She says if you’re in an upscale restaurant where it’s customary to tip the host or hostess for a window view, do so in a way that’s both seen and not obvious, such as saying: “Thank you for such a lovely view” while slipping them a tip.

“When the check is delivered, don’t simply add the 15% to the credit card charge slip. Instead, pull out cash in the amount of 20-25% of the total bill, and lay it on the table with a comment about how important it is to take care of the people who take care of you,” Handrick says “That will impress your clients and assure that they too will be treated respectfully. You’re marketing yourself to your client as a generous, kind person.”

End the meal on a professional note

At the end of the dinner, make sure that you say goodbye personally to each person who attended.

“Thank them for coming and let them know that you will be following up with an email or possibly even an invite to join a social networking site if that makes sense,” adds Ring.


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Erica Lamberg|is a business, health, and travel writer whose work appears in Gannett, US News & World Report, Bankrate, MSN, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Reader’s Digest and NBC News