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Top 5 Ways to Successfully “Do Lunch”

Top 5 way to Successfully “Do Lunch”

At some point, you will have a lunch business meeting. Whether this is sitting with a superior to discuss your career or a potentially ally that you need to convince, a lot can be accomplished. However, there is an art to the business lunch.

Here are my top 5 tips:

1) Location – You need to find a place you can talk and is not too crowded. This can be a rookie mistake if you go to some place and you can’t talk. Best bet – a nice sit-down restaurant that takes reservations.

2) Reminder – Often it can take 10 emails to set up a lunch meeting. And by the time, it is put on one’s schedule, people often forget. It is super key to do a quick email reminder the morning of the lunch. I have been accidentally stood up a few times because of my lack of reminding.

3) Ordering – Ideally always order second, so you can copy what the other person does. Generally go for something easy to eat (not a BBQ sandwich), not too messy. And always order an “Arnold Palmer” – its classy

4) Discussion – So the whole point of the lunch is to have a talk. Don’t just hop right into business. You need some warm-up to get people going – family, friends, sports, etc. But at the same time, you want to make sure you get to the topic you came to. I’ve had too many lunches that ended without the real topic ever getting discussed.

5) Follow-up – Yep…a theme in my posts lately. But it is key to follow-up on what was discussed at the lunch. It doesn’t have to be that afternoon and honestly I’d recommend the next day. Thank the person for lunch and go into the next steps you’ve discussed.

Also here are some other top 5's of mine:
Top 5: Ways to Get Your Next Gov't Job
Top 5: Best Places to Have a Government Job
Top 5: Worst Places to Have a Government Job
Top 5: Places to Network at Work
Top 5: Gov't Shows That Should Exist
Top 5: Things I Wish the Boss Did
Top 5: Ways to Tell a Contractor Apart From a Govie
Top 5: Signs You Need A New Job

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Comment by James Miceli on January 23, 2013 at 4:05pm

+1 Arnold Palmer is delicious

Comment by Shannon Donelson on January 23, 2013 at 8:35am

I recently attended a business lunch at a BBQ place (Not my choice). Lunch was fantastic, but from the appetizers to the food, it was one big mess between myself and the others. It amazed me how much the messiness of the food interfered with the quality of the conversation!  

Treat a work lunch like a first date. Always choose something simple and always be on your best behavior while enjoying your food.

Comment by Jon Mathis on January 18, 2013 at 12:06pm

Two other thoughts:

1.  Don't order salad.  Salad at a business lunch can be treacherous.

2.  Another little-used option in government is to have a conversation while going for a walk.  Sometimes getting out of the office makes for much more relaxed and effective communication

Comment by Erika Miller on January 18, 2013 at 11:23am

Kind of hard to take this advice seriously when you say copy what the other person orders and ALWAYS get an Arnold Palmer.  Really?!? OR you can not be a sheep and be your own person and get what you want.

Comment by Jon Lee on January 18, 2013 at 9:59am

Great tips! To piggyback off 3) Ordering - I wouldn't order anything that requires too much chewing, because you typically don't want long awkward silences and swallowing too quickly can lead to heartburn or stomach cramps. I usually order appetizers or salad/soup to simplify the ingestion process.

4) Discussion - Manage how much time each person talks. Don't dominate the conversation so the other person finishes eating while you've only taken 2 bites, and vice versa. If you feel like you're talking too much, stop and ask that person a question (make sure he/she didn't just take a bite). If that other person is talking too much, jump in with a comment and give him/her a chance to eat. 

Comment by Martha Austin on January 18, 2013 at 9:42am

I love these tips.  So much of what we do is about connecting.  Inside the walls of our respective organizations it can be really easy to get on the bureaucratic treadmill and lose our ourselves, our partners in service, and sometimes even our mission (the difference we came here to make.)  There is SO MUCH more to lunch than grabbing a sandwich.  Thanks for the reminder and the tips on how to make that lunch really work.


Comment by Katie Bromley on January 16, 2013 at 1:12pm

Great reminders, whether you've been 'doing lunch' for a year or decades. I'll never forget the time time I regretfully ordered soup.  And yes, I've had conversations over lunch where I've felt that the reason the person asked for lunch, was never addressed, for one reason or another.

Comment by David B. Grinberg on January 16, 2013 at 9:27am

So where and when are we meeting for a late lunch or coffee, Steve? Please email me the logistics. Looking forward to it.


Comment by Dick Davies on January 15, 2013 at 10:28am

  Your point 4 about the point of the meeting not coming up - I find that is usually on purpose and pressing doesn't help. It may be too big to know at that first meeting, and is generally the elephant in the room. I have two solutions, first anyone who has ever sat with me came away with a handout, and second, my idea of a "Thank You" is to provide something with value based on the conversation. It may take a day or two to run cross it, but staying on message moves the conversation forward.

Comment by Alan Raisman on January 11, 2011 at 1:34pm
If you schedule a lunch meeting five days or more in advance, make sure to send an email or a phone call to the individual to confirm the time and location.

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