How to sur­vive a busi­ness din­ner

The Weekend Australian - Magazine - - Society - ◖ mag­a­zine­feed­back@theaus­tralian.com.au ◗

time ago, I was seated next to a se­nior church fig­ure. I thought, to my shame, “this is go­ing to be dull”. The se­nior church fig­ure turned out to be one of the wit­ti­est and most charm­ing din­ner com­pan­ions I have had the plea­sure of be­ing seated next to. Never pre­judge a din­ner com­pan­ion – though it must be said that many celebrities are quite dull.

Do not speak across your din­ner com­pan­ion to some­one who is ad­judged to be more in­ter­est­ing, pow­er­ful or at­trac­tive. Do not ask a ques­tion of some­one and then proceed to look over their shoul­der to see if there’s any­one more in­ter­est­ing to talk to. Do not be rude, in­sult­ing, sexist, racist or any­thing “ist”; rather, be pleas­ant, warm, mildly amus­ing if pos­si­ble but at all times charm­ing.

If at a for­mal din­ner func­tion the MC says, “I’ll let you get back to your net­work­ing”, you are at the wrong event. No one does busi­ness with any­one they ca­su­ally meet at a din­ner. Net­work­ing is a myth. They might take a card; they might “have their peo­ple con­tact your peo­ple” but din­ners are for so­cial­is­ing, for see­ing who’s there, who’s not, who en­gages with whom and who lets their guard down with an ill-con­sid­ered but re­veal­ing com­ment. It’s for see­ing who’s seated at which ta­ble and who bowls up to the CEO and falls about laugh­ing at his or her not-very-funny jokes; who can­not hold their drink af­ter 8.30pm.

Do not start speak­ing at an event af­ter 8.30pm. That’s suf­fi­cient time for cor­po­rate novices, hacks and poseurs to be­lieve that ev­ery­thing they say is funny. Never stick around at such an event be­yond 9.30pm,

10 at the lat­est. There is no se­cret in­sider chit-chat that takes place in the wee hours.

Turn up on time, be po­lite, be charm­ing, be witty, mix with everyone, re­mem­ber everyone’s name, do not get tipsy, let alone drunk. And make sure you dis­creetly leave be­fore the cra­zies come out. All of the above is just the first les­son in my as-yet un­pub­lished man­ual Salt’s Guide to Cor­po­rate Sur­vival.

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