When you’re dining with business colleagues, are you more focused on which fork to use than on the conversation? If you’re nodding your head in agreement, you aren’t alone. Many young professionals are not as confident about their table manners as they would like to be. Today’s dining is decidedly casual: lunch from a food truck and dinner at the computer. The result? Our dining skills are underdeveloped, so when it’s time to dine in a business setting, our dining insecurities take hold.

But, there’s no need to panic. A few tips can help even the most inexperienced diner feel confident at the business dining table. Here’s what you need to know:

Master the Place Setting

Mastering the place setting helps you to keep your focus on business and off of wondering which utensil or beverage glass to use. Take a look at my short video tutorial for an overview of the utensils and other items found in a typical four-course place setting. For a more detailed review, sign up to see the full-length video tutorial, 3 Things Every Young and Fabulous Professional Should Know About the Place Setting. This four-minute video reviews the classic table manners rules, BMW (bread, meal, water) and the Outside In rule. These two rules can help you to navigate the place setting with confidence. Both videos are free and available for viewing here on my website.

Be Kind to Your Dining Companions

Many table manners rules are based on courtesy. Treat your dining companions as you would like to be treated. Do you want to be distracted by someone’s pinging phone while you are making your pitch? Would you like to see bits of partially chewed food in someone’s mouth while they are talking to you? Do you want to be embarrassed by off-color jokes? Your dining companions feel the same way.

Not sure where you should return something to the table after picking it up? Quick tip: your beverage always goes to the right of your plate, while your bread plate should be placed on the left.

More Table Manners Tips

Here are a few more tips to help you feel confident at the business dining table:

1. Keep your keys, wallet, and purse off of the table

2. Place your napkin on your lap after being seated

3. Pay attention when the server is explaining the specials

4. Let your host lead the way on when to begin eating

5. Never put a used utensil on the table

6. Don’t stack dishes or push your plate away when finished

7. Be sure to thank your host for inviting you!

Stayce Wagner is the author of Modern Business Etiquette for Young & Fabulous Professionals, available at Amazon.comBarnesandNoble.com, the iTunes Store, and other major outlets. Stayce is the founder of Spencer Crane Etiquette, LLC, where business etiquette and authenticity are partners, not rivals. Our many services are designed to help you to achieve success on your terms. We invite you to contact us today to discuss how we can help you with your business etiquette needs.

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