Throughout history, important agreements were solidified over peace pipes, at village feasts, royal weddings and so forth.
Today, entrepreneurs pitch business plans at coffee shops, businesses form partnerships on golf courses, or secure large contracts at dinners over wine. We as humans instinctively react favorably to “festive”, “fun”, “out-of-the-norm” environments. They put us in better more agreeable moods, which help when trying to move business relationships forward.
Obviously, the environment needs to fit the situation. For example, what might be a good setting for romance probably is not necessarily so for business. There are some simple truths to ensuring the right atmosphere for the after hour “business meeting”. As a person who has been involved in many company transactions, as well as high-stakes sales negotiations, here is my guideline such a gathering.
- Authenticity – Never try to portray a personalty that is not real. Why would anyone have the trust to do business with you if they think you are not being real? So, if you are a young entreprenuer on a college-type of a budget, don’t book a room at the swankiest private clubs.
- Graciousness – Remember you are the host, and with it comes a lot of responsibilities. Above all else, including your business objective for the meeting/evening, be the gracious host.
- Out of the Box – People get in a rut in their daily routine, but in a celebratory evening, they are ususally more willing to do something “out of the norm”. Be creative in planning the event (venue, food, activities). Shake things up, but always in good taste.
- Good Food – Throughout history, people have worked hard hunting or farming and then have used the celebratory feast afterwards as a time of enjoyment and bonding. We’re basically the same today. Make sure that the quality of food is a center piece. Get people passionate about the food.
- Complimentary Drinks – When appropriate and possible, match different drinks with the different courses, including dessert. The Europeans are great at enjoying such pairings and they really enhance the conversations and offer better opportunities for bonding.
- Relevance – Be clear about the business at hand and get clarity when needed, but timing and relevance of your points are very, very imporant. Your points should be in the context of the conversations.
- Have Fun, Be Passionate – Hey, you can’t fake this stuff. Either you are having fun and loving what you are doing or you are not. Your energy will affect the vibe of the evening one way or another. Sometimes, I even engage strangers with high energy into our conversations to just up the mood.