Sometime you may find yourself inviting a boss, manager, colleague, client, or even a prospect to your home for dinner. Hosting this meal carries special responsibilities. Here are five steps to success:
Invite clearly: Include the when, where, and why. The invitation may be as casual as a phone call or brief encounter at the office, or more formal through a mailed invitation. Letting invitees know the basic information of when and where is a courtesy on your part. As to the why? Perhaps it is a birthday celebration or congratulations on a promotion, in which case both guests and honorees will want to be prepared.
Plan well: Prepare as much and early as you can. Your goal is to get as much done ahead of time so you are not stuck in the kitchen. Depending on the size of the event, you may want to enlist a caterer or even a couple local high school students to help pass hors d’oeuvres, serve food, and clean up.
Remain calm: Your mood sets the tone. When it comes to entertaining, it always seems there is some glitch. Whether the food isn’t ready on time or guests arrive unreasonably late, be prepared to go with the flow. While you can’t have a Plan B for every eventuality, consider how you might handle common ones.
Be welcoming: Greet, introduce, and check in with your guests. As guests arrive, greet them at the door. After taking coats, lead them into the room where people are gathering, make sure they are offered something to drink, and introduce them. Keep an eye out for guests who aren’t engaged in conversation and make an effort to help them join in.
Be appreciative: Thank guests for attending and for any gifts. Say goodbye to each guest as you escort them to the door. Be sure to thank anyone who brought a gift, such as flowers or wine.
One word of caution: It’s your responsibility to make sure guests have not had too much to drink. Safety trumps etiquette and everything else, even a boss who is over the limit. Be prepared to take the guest home. Don’t ask others to assume the responsibility. While awkwardness at the office the next day is possible, it’s better than dealing with an accident caused by a person who had too much to drink.
E-mail questions about business etiquette to firstname.lastname@example.org.