Whether traveling to a new location for a business trip or working out of your corporate headquarters, there are many benefits to moving your meeting from the office or convention center to one of your favorite dining establishments.
In addition to enjoying good food and relaxing with a libation, the client or business prospect dinner provides a more relaxed atmosphere than a hectic trade show booth or busy office. It’s also an opportunity to get to know your client on a personal level, a component that is increasingly difficult to achieve with all of the electronic communication that has become a part of our daily routines.
When organizing a business meeting at an eatery, the first step is to pick the appropriate style of restaurant. As a matter of personal preference, I like to choose a restaurant that has a medium to high amount of noise. From a public relations perspective, many of our business meetings review confidential information which is discussed in-depth over the course of the meal—upcoming product launches, new service offerings, new hires, mergers, acquisitions, etc. The ambient noise is desirable to mask these high-level conversations. Depending on how many folks are attending the dinner, I opt for a large round booth whenever possible. While table style may seem like a small detail, a round booth helps to facilitate conversation and enables all of the guests to easily interact with one another.
Having dinner with current clients gives you the opportunity to connect on a personal level and strengthen your professional relationship.
Having dinner with current clients gives you the opportunity to connect on a personal level and strengthen your professional relationship. As an added benefit, the conversation environment of a client dinner often enables both parties to be a little more candid in discussing how the current working relationship is going. It’s also a good opportunity to explore how the engagement can be expanded and how you can better support the client.
Many times, when we meet with clients in the office or on a trade show floor, we come with a structured itinerary full of items to discuss. Once it’s exhausted, the meeting adjourns and the opportunity for additional brainstorming ends. At a client dinner there is often a relaxed agenda or even no agenda, so the range of topics to discuss are endless. This enables the client (or you) to discuss new initiatives or pose a novel strategy that may not normally present itself during the course of an office meeting.
Another activity that is bolstered through the looser atmosphere of a dinner meeting is the opportunity to informally introduce the prospect of a strategic partnership. Without having to worry about the issues that can arise from a formal collaborative proposal, simply being a matchmaker and inviting clients or prospects that have complementary interests to a meal is an attractive method to seeing if the entities are open to working together. This gives your clients an opportunity to see the added value that your organization can provide, helping to solidify your relationship and the prospect for future business.
Adam Waitkunas authors the column “Anecdotally Adam” and is President for Milldam Public Relations.