Sometime you may find yourself in the position of inviting a boss, manager, colleague(s), client or even a prospect to your home for dinner. Hosting this meal carries its own special responsibilities for you. Here are five steps to make that evening a success:
1. Invite clearly: Include the when, where, and why.
The invitation may be as casual as a phone call or a brief encounter at the office, or, a mailed invitation for a more formal occasion. Letting the invitees know the basic information of when and where is a courtesy on your part. As to the why? Perhaps it is a special birthday celebration or congratulations on a promotion, in which case both guests and honoree(s) will want to be prepared.
2. Plan well: Prepare as much and as early as you can.
Your goal is to get as much done ahead of time so you’re not stuck in the kitchen preparing the meal. Depending on the size of the event, you may want to enlist the help of a caterer or even a couple local high school students to help pass hors d’oeuvres, serve food, and clean up.
3. Remain calm: Your mood sets the tone.
When it comes to entertaining, it always seems there is some glitch involved. Regardless of whether the food isn’t ready on time or the 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 the most common ones.
4. Be welcoming: Greet, introduce, and check in with your guests.
As guests arrive, greet them at the door and welcome them to your home. After taking coats lead them into the room where people are gathering, make sure they are offered something to drink, and introduce them to others. During the party keep an eye out for any guests who aren’t engaged in conversation and make an effort to help them join in.
5. Be appreciative: Thank your guests for attending and for any gifts.
Just as you greeted each guest, as the party winds down say good-bye to each guest as you escort them to the door. Be sure to thank anyone who brought a gift for you, such as flowers or a bottle of wine.
One word of caution: it’s your responsibility to make sure that 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 other guests to assume that responsibility. While awkwardness at the office the next day is a distinct possibility, it’s much better than having to deal with an accident caused by a person who had too much to drink while at your home.
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Patricia Hunt Sinacole is president of First Beacon Group LLC, a human resources consulting firm in Hopkinton. She works with clients across many industries including technology, biotech and medical devices, financial services, and healthcare, and has over 20 years of human resources experience.
Elaine Varelas is managing partner at Keystone Partners, a career management firm in Boston and serves on the board of Career Partners International.
Cindy Atoji Keene is a freelance journalist with more than 25 years experience. E-mail her directly here.
Peter Post is the author of "The Etiquette Advantage in Business." Email questions about business etiquette to him directly here.
Stu Coleman, a partner and general manager at WinterWyman, manages the firm's Financial Contracting division, and provides strategic staffing services to Boston-area organizations needing Accounting and Finance workforce solutions and contract talent.
Tracy Cashman is Senior Vice President and Partner of the Information Technology search division at WinterWyman. She has 20 years of experience partnering with clients in the Boston area to conduct technology searches in a wide variety of industries and technology.
Paul Hellman is the founder of Express Potential, which specializes in executive communication skills. He consults and speaks internationally on how to capture attention & influence others. Email him directly here.