In the world of corporate dinner planning, there is as much focus on proper corporate dinner etiquette as there is on event design and menus. A properly-planned event impresses employees, their families and clients, which is why it’s important to keep good corporate event etiquette in mind.
Here are some of the top corporate dinner etiquette rules, for planners and well as for guests.
Corporate dinner etiquette for planners
Be clear about the corporation’s wish for guest lists. Will this be an event just for employees and clients, or will family members be invited? Formal event invitations should be addressed to the employee/client by name, and if a partner is invited, follow the same etiquette rules as are used for wedding invitations: invite guests by name, such as Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smith if a couple are to be invited. If children will be included in the corporate dinner, the proper invitation addressing is Mr. and Mrs. Robert Smith and family. Be sure to get all guests’ names and titles spelled correctly, and if children will be invited, be sure that all of the guests’ children’s names are included. You may need to update your employee personnel records prior to the dinner to be sure you’re aware of any children born or adopted since the last time employee records were attained.
Send corporate dinner invitations early, at least 4 weeks prior to the event, so that guests have time to plan on attendance.
Set an RSVP date at least a week before your corporate dinner venue or restaurant’s deadline for catering headcount, to give yourself the best chance of having a complete headcount, including time to follow up with those who have not yet RSVP’d.
Print invitations and online invitations such as through Evite or Paperless Post are etiquette-okay for corporate dinner invitations, although some companies love the look, feel and formality of print invitations.
While email RSVPs are etiquette-appropriate, bear in mind that sometimes emails will go into a spam file or get lost, so prepare a time for following up with those who have not yet RSVPd.
Provide a dress code on the invitations, so that guests know how to dress properly for the event. Business formal is an important message so that guests know to wear suits and dresses or pantsuits. Outdoor casual shares your plan for a relaxed dinner out in your event’s outdoor space.
Decide if your guest list size calls for a receiving line at your corporate event dinner, for proper greetings of company heads and special guests.
Plan a timely itinerary that provides for important speaking and presentations at the start of the dinner, so that all ‘business’ is conducted early while all guests are in attendance.
Plan seating charts that treat all guests as equals. You don’t want a ranking system of chief officers seated at nicer tables than all other guests. Do plan a seating chart, for your guests’ comfort. It can be stressful for guests to walk into a gorgeous, large event ballroom with no idea where they can sit, and no way for them to sit with friends. Provide seating assignment cards or a sign at the entrance to your event ballroom.
Corporate dinner etiquette for guests:
RSVP in a timely manner, with your guests’ names provided.
If you RSVP that you will attend, do attend with your agreed-upon guests. If you must cancel prior to the event, contact the corporate dinner planner as soon as possible. Being a no-show does not reflect well on you in your organization.
Upon arrival, greet the hosts.
If there will be a receiving line, walk through the line without a drink or plate in your hand so that you can properly greet those in the line.
Be careful not to drink too much at the event. You may love an open bar, and your work friends may be imbibing at record pace, but stay in moderation and separate yourself from any group overdoing it, to remain in the hosts’ and your company’s good graces.
When you arrive at your table, greet each guest at your table with introductions and handshakes, so that all may be acquainted.
Practice good table manners during the dinner, which goes without saying but is a topic that many business etiquette professionals say is a big issue at corporate events. You are always in view of your bosses and colleagues, so use proper table manners at all times.
Limit bringing up business talk, or cornering your boss to discuss a project you would like. This is a time of celebration, and your boss may better like to see you as a person rather than an opportunist or someone acting out of desperation, as it may be interpreted.
If your guest is misbehaving, it’s time for the two of you to depart.
Treat all serving staff with respect. Corporate etiquette experts say that it’s a big trend in job interview lunches to assess how a candidate addresses the service staff as a glimpse into his or her character. So treat those serving you, from the bartender to the valet person to your table servers, with ultimate respect and consideration.
If you do social media share images from the event, use the event’s hashtag and be sure that all of your images and messaging show you and the company in your best light.
After the event, send the organizers a thank-you note for their good work in planning an exceptional corporate dinner in an excellent corporate dinner venue.