Food for Thought

October 2021
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I’d be lying to you if I said I never drank with a client. In fact, one of my more favorite memories in the PR business involves a late night-early morning tour of Chicago blues clubs with the communications chiefs from Canadian and Mexican steel companies, respectively, along with my client, the head of communications for a big trade association, and for good measure a reporter from the Allentown Morning Call

There was music, there were laughs, and there were generous amounts of alcohol. It all created a bonding experience you can’t get over a continental breakfast. Did it help us all work better together after that? You’d better believe it.

Still, would I recommend this as common practice? No.

Your mother may have told you, “There’s a time and a place for everything,” and when it comes to certain habits that are designed to keep you sharp in the business of communications, it’s best to err on the side of caution. 

With this in mind, consider some of following rules of thumb when it comes to food and beverage on the job.

Never eat on an empty stomach.

Whether you’re meeting with a client, reporter or potential employer, the purpose of any business meal is not about eating. You likely have the opportunity to go to restaurants and venues you would not otherwise be able to afford if it wasn’t covered by an expense account. Don’t let the menu, the food or the atmosphere become a distraction.

Your job is to be completely focused on the people with whom you are meeting. If necessary, eat a little something beforehand so you’re not too hungry at the meeting. Choose items from the menu that won’t distract you or your colleagues once you’re served (i.e., take a rain check on the lobster). 

Be in the moment. Be present. Don’t do anything that hinders your ability to listen and absorb all that’s happening around you during the meeting.

Don’t eat during a Zoom call.

This tip is a new one in the wake of the pandemic. You’ve probably been on your share of Zoom calls by now, and you’ve noticed how people handle the prospect of eating during the meeting, on camera or off.

Regardless of how busy you are, you don’t have to eat in the middle of a video call. Someone else on the call may see it as distracting to say the least.

Don’t advertise your non-alcoholic beverage choices.

I have and I do drink with clients and other business colleagues as appropriate. But for the most part, I choose to go alcohol-free at any business function. My reasons are the same as we’ve already covered. I want to listen and avoid any distractions.

In some environments, you may feel pressured to join the crowd and have a drink or two.

These days, when I go nonalcoholic, I do so without explanation. But there have been times when I’ve read the room and realized the mere act of not drinking alcohol could make a statement I didn’t need to make. My solution for this, and you may have your own ways of doing it, is to order a simple club soda with a lime in it.

These are three tips, but they follow the same idea. If you’re in the business of relationships, then don’t let your food and beverage habits detract from your real purpose for being there. 

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