Professional Presence

Professional Presence and Social Savvy

A business lunch or other social event is just as important as a formal interview. Make sure you review the other sections on first impressions as well as read the following advice to ensure the best experience and outcomes. Positive professional presence and social savvy can go a long way in creating a positive first impression. 

Take Action:

Follow the guidance below and you will be on your way to a successful social outing.

Eat Right:

  • Let the host or most senior person sit down first.
  • Turn off your cell phone.
  • If your host orders and appetizer or dessert, you can too. Otherwise, stick with an entrée that is mid-range in price and not too messy to eat.
  • Do not eat until everyone is served, unless your host or the most senior person gives you permission to start.
  • Be polite to the restaurant staff, even if there is something wrong with your meal. Say "thank you" at the end of the meal.
  • Remember the basics: Eat from the outside in when selecting utensils. Food dishes to the left and glasses to the right are yours. Put your napkin on your lap when you sit down and place it to the left of your plate when done.
  • Be prepared with appropriate conversation topics. Practice graceful ways to change the subject and avoid interrupting others. Be aware when it is appropriate to remain quiet and listen.


Drink Light:

  • Avoid drinking alcohol during business hours.
  • If you are at an after-hours event, follow the lead of your host. If he/she orders a drink, you can too (as long as you are of legal drinking age).
  • If ordering alcohol, stick to a mid-priced beer or wine and do not overindulge. One glass (or two at a longer event) is more than enough.

Be Polite:

  • When being introduced to a new group, make a personal connection.
  • Be mindful of how you enter and exit a conversation. Wait to be acknowledged before interjecting, and politely excuse yourself when moving on.
  • If you bring someone new to the group, make sure you do a first round of introductions.
  • When making introductions, the name of the person with the greatest seniority always goes first. Explain who people are to help the person remember “who’s who.”  This will assist in making small talk as well.
  • Reach out for a firm handshake, make eye contact, and remember to smile. Stick to safe topics of conversation. Avoid politics, religion, and gossip.
  • Do not pull your cell phone out at the dinner table or while in a social conversation.

Do What is Right:

  • Typically the host will pay for the outing. If it is clear that you are on your own, you can offer to split the cost for simplicity sake - as long as that will cover your costs.
  • Maintain professionalism at all times. Even if you are at a social function, you can damage your reputation by letting your guard down and acting inappropriately.
  • Be careful when posting to social media about the event. Do not post anything that you might regret later.
  • Maintain confidentiality. Do not share anything from your conversations that was not intended to be public knowledge.