This week I went on WJLA/News Channel 8’s show Let’s Talk Live D.C. again, but this time to chat about how to mix business and booze in a classy fashion. Tons of business takes place in bars around the world, but you’ve got to know how to keep your wits about you and make a good impression to keep the meeting effective, productive and enjoyable.
The experience of chatting with co-host Melanie Hastings on the set was a learning lesson in itself on how to conduct business over booze. I brought a bottle of Baker’s 7 year-old bourbon with me to pour into beautiful Villeroy & Boch rocks glasses as we chatted. But when I went to pour it LIVE, I couldn’t get the bottle open! The producers quickly shot to still photos as we talked so they could come on set and crack it open for me. I should have loosened the top before my segment started (preparation is important in any business meeting), but such is live TV right? You gotta roll with the punches and have fun anyway (which I did)!
In any case, here’s how to handle a business meeting in bar like a pro:
- Pick a place with a wide selection, tables with enough distance from other bar-goers, and that it is not too busy. You want to be able to hear your guest speak while also ensuring something like to drink is available.
- Act like a VIP. This doesn’t mean act like a jerk. Instead, familiarize yourself with the staff before taking a guest to a bar and treat them well. Tell them you’ll be coming back with an important person and that you hope to see them then. When you show up, you’ll appear to a take charge kinda gal with some high rolling tendencies. Beware, though, you don’t want to give off the impression you spend all of your free time in that bar!
- Sit at a table rather than a bar counter. Sitting at a bar means you’ll be facing each other awkwardly while also making bar staff and other patrons privy to your conversations. Grab a table in the corner.
- Don’t peruse the menu too long. Doing so will show you probably don’t know what you want or like, and also wastes time. If you have an idea of what may be offered, you can ask the server more quickly about the choices based on specific characteristics you would like and decide on the spot, while also looking well informed and able to make an educated decision at the same time. Study in the menu in advance of the meeting if you’d like.
- Keep personal chat to a minimum. Personal problems are distracting. Get the business out of the way first and chat about personal matters when the check comes.
- Sit up straight. Sitting up straight subconsciously shows you are confident, alert, and assertive.
- Take notes. In my work as a travel, food, and spirits writer, details matter. Even one drink can cloud your memory. Write everything down, I mean everything. It also shows that you are paying attention and will follow up.
- Only have one. Even after one drink, your body becomes relaxed, your memory faded, and your judgment clouded. Keep it tight, have one drink, and stay focused.
- Drink something respectable. Please, please don’t order a vodka soda, appletini, or a skinny this or that. Show your knowledge of the finer things in life with a stirred cocktail, or a quality whiskey, gin, rum, tequila, or brandy neat, on the rocks, or with water. At the same time, don’t just order something because you think it makes you look good. It will be really obvious when you’re not drinking it that you don’t really like it.
- End the meeting promptly after business is done. Linger longer and you’ll probably have more drinks, which means you might inadvertently say or do something unbecoming of a babe.
- Always offer to pay. To be treated as an equal in the business world, you’ve got to share the cost. Even if your companion really wants to front the bill, fight for it a little. If you came out of the meeting as the beneficiary of whatever it is you set out to accomplish or discuss, fight for it a lot. It’s a small, but symbolic gesture of appreciation and respect for their time and attention.