No matter where in the world you come from, people bond over food and drink because it is a common language between even the most diverse cultures. Over time, business dinners have become integral to relationship building between business partners, with InterContinental Sydney playing host to many over the last 30 years. Whether you are hosting a meal for a potential client or a long-time partner, our Director of Meetings & Events Alex Loriente shares the perfect formula for how to make an impression and execute the perfect business dinner.
Know the occasion
Begin by selecting a suitable venue for the purpose of the occasion. Depending on who you will be meeting with, select a restaurant based on what will tie in nicely with your guests’ cultures and customs and whether it is a casual or more formal affair. Try to remember, in most parts of Asia, a dinner meeting is an opportunity to display the host’s generosity, status and wealth and they generally expect the same reciprocity when being hosted.
A business dinner is not the right time to scrimp. If you have invited people to join you for an occasion, be a gracious and graceful host by expressing your generosity and allow the guests to order as per their preferences. Start the evening with a bottle of champagne and do order a few bottles of fine wine for your guests to enjoy. Also, in some countries, it is custom to present a small gift at a delegate dinner, so keep this tip in mind.
When planning a business dinner, remember to include the dress code in your invitation. In many cultures, the mark of your success is judged on how you dress – men should always ensure their shoes are polished and women should accessorise their outfits with eye-catching jewellery. Err on the safe side by adhering to a more formal dress code, as it is always better to be overdressed than underdressed.
First impressions matter; and that first greeting or handshake may well determine the success of the dinner. Showing awareness and respect of cultural differences is important when you meet your dinner partners at the start of the evening. The level of formality and customary greetings can differ in each country, so be aware of these differences and get prepared before you meet your guests.
Perfect the art of conversation
Being a good conversationalist is a fine art and a skill that will get you far when it comes to business dinners. Conducting appropriate and engaging conversations over the dinner table, while maintaining etiquette, is vital for a successful dinner. Some cultures value pleasantries more than others; some prefer to dive straight into business speak; and for others it is considered taboo to talk about work during dinner as the time is meant for relationship building.
Mind your manners
Having good manners is a universal imperative and will always set the standard. Again, different cultures will have different table manners, so be aware of the customs of the people you are dining with so you are abreast of anything that might seem out of the ordinary to you, but is completely normal to them.