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Making the Most of a Lunch Meeting

Lunch meetings can create a bit more pressure than a typical in-office meeting or a conference call due to the different environment. Getting distracted by the hustle and bustle of a restaurant, improper social or table etiquette, and food allergies or preferences, are some challenges you may be faced with. Here are some ways to combat those challenges and help make your meeting more successful and productive.


Set an Agenda

Just as you would with any other meeting, organize an agenda and share it with the person, client, or prospect you are meeting with before the lunch meeting. Consider important background information, and make sure you are as prepared as possible to stick to the agenda and satisfy all related questions or discussion points.


Keep Your Purpose Top of Mind

Make sure to allow for casual, small talk, but to also accomplish the goals and follow the agenda of the meeting. Make sure to take notes (if necessary) and remember that you’re in a meeting which will likely result in follow-up and action items. It would be counterproductive to forget or breeze through important items to talk through because you’re in a less formal setting. In an article on Forbes, they write, “This is a lunch meeting, not a conference call, which means the situation necessitates a personal and positive connection. Start with small talk and save the business until the food arrives. Rely on your research to get things going but be discreet and avoid specifics–if you know too much and reference your guest’s kids by name, for example, you might come off looking like a stalker. Stick to topics that are easy and conversational–children, travel, tech. Avoid politics, religion and dating. Once the food arrives, transition to business talk. You planned your agenda ahead of time, so take the lead and begin with the first item. Make sure to listen as much as you talk. If your primary goal is to network (as opposed to something more actionable), ask many questions and find an area in which you could be helpful to your companion. The right networking relationship is as much about give as take.”


Consider Allergies or Food Restrictions

As you request the lunch meeting, be sure to consider any allergies or food restrictions, and make sure the person you are meeting with will be in a comfortable environment that will meet their needs. Otherwise, if there are no good food options for the person you requested the meeting with, it might make for an uncomfortable meeting for both of you.


Consider Meeting Purpose and Restaurant Ambiance

As you select the restaurant for the lunch meeting, make sure you consider the type of restaurant you choose and if the ambiance will be appropriate for the agenda. For example, if the meeting is fairly casual, a more laid-back atmosphere with background noise is appropriate. If the lunch meeting is with a high-profile individual, somewhere more upscale and quiet is a better option.


Be Punctual

Plan to be about 10 minutes early, and that you are seated first to start the meeting off feeling organized and prepared. Being late to a meeting in general is bad practice, but being late to an in-person lunch meeting could be detrimental to the flow and effectiveness of the meeting.


Don’t Forget Table Manners

Sometimes you can get swept up in a lunch meeting, and forget you’re actually in a meeting. Don’t forget your table manners. Be respectful to servers, and make sure the person you’re meeting with is taken care of. It should go without saying, but please don’t talk with your mouth full, and pick up the tab at the end of the meal.


Lunch meetings are a great way to bridge the gap of the typical meeting, and to create personal relationships with customers, clients, and prospects. By keeping these reminders top of mind, you’ll be able to execute an enjoyable and effective lunch meeting.