Whether you’re celebrating the festive season or going on a business trip with your boss, here’s what you should do to leave a great impression.
When entertaining clients
1. MAKE PRIOR ARRANGEMENTS
Decide on the menu – set meals are usually more appropriate, but if you are having Chinese food, give instructions to the restaurant to portion the dishes. When it comes to who sits where, Teo Ser Lee, founder of Protocol Academy, says your client should be on the right of your boss (the host) – a position reserved for important guests – and in between you and your boss so it’s easier to engage in conversation.
2. TAKE YOUR DRINKING CUE FROM THE TABLE
Do not order an alcoholic beverage if no one else at your table does. For lunch events, a glass of wine is appropriate. To avoid getting inebriated during evening functions, ask for apple juice mixed with soda water in a champagne glass.
3. LET YOUR BOSS TAKE THE LEAD IN CONVERSATIONS
This allows you to follow the tone that she sets. If you know the client better, be ready to chime in with details where relevant.
4. STAY ON TOP OF TRENDING NEWS STORIES
This can help break the ice when conversation dies down. But avoid sensitive issues like politics and religion.
5. READ THE BODY LANGUAGE
Look out for signs that the client or your boss is ready to wrap up small talk (for instance, if she is looking at her watch), before you start discussing business. If you are doing a presentation, opt for an iPad as this takes up less space on the table.
6. KEEP NOTES FROM PREVIOUS MEETINGS
These will help you to remember personal anecdotes about your client. It also allows you to present a solution to a problem that was brought up.
When travelling for work
1. DRESS SMART CASUAL
A blouse and pants are suitable, while a tank top and shorts are not. Remember, this is not a vacation.
2. BE READY TO DISCUSS BUSINESS ON THE PLANE
If you are seated away from your boss, check if she wants to discuss anything on board, so you can ask to swop seats with another person. If you are flying during business hours, have your laptop open and make sure you are not just catching up on nap time or watching a movie. You can relax these rules a little if you’re travelling on a weekend.
3. ASK YOUR BOSS ABOUT AFTER-WORK MEAL ARRANGEMENTS
If she is engaged, make your own plans and stick to a reasonably priced restaurant. While companies usually allow meals to be reimbursed, this is not the right time for you to visit that Michelin-starred restaurant you’ve always wanted to.
4. LET YOUR BOSS SETTLE THE BILL AND TIP
But as a subordinate, leaving an extra cash tip is a nice gesture as it is a small price to pay for the privilege of a nice meal and the opportunity to travel.
When having TGIF drinks
1. LET THE BOSS KNOW YOU BETTER AS A PERSON
You can talk about general topics like your hobbies, which could put you in a good light. For instance, saying that you like travelling alone shows you are adventurous.
2. PRACTISE BASIC ETIQUETTE
Let your manners shine. Order a drink for her, ask if she wants a bite and listen attentively when she speaks to you.
3. OFFER TO PICK UP THE TAB
It’s only polite. If she pays, reciprocate by offering to pay for the next round.
4. DON’T COME ACROSS AS TOO INTENSE
After all, this is still a casual setting.Don’t go overboard with work discussions, or worse, put your boss on the spot by asking for a raise or promotion – these should be discussed at an appropriate time in the office.
EXPERT SOURCES: Teo Ser Lee, founder and director of Protocol Academy; Gaynor Reid, vice-president of communications for Asia-Pacifi c at Accor Hotels; Jennifer Wu, head of HR for Asia-Pacifi c at Lewis PR
Lee Xin Hui, Her World, October 2015