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Networking while you eat

At a late morning meeting recently with a fellow entrepreneur, as we were wrapping up I mentioned my next meeting had been postponed and asked if he had time to grab a bite to eat and he responded how lucky I was to “afford the luxury of lunch.” His comment made me realize that life and business are really about choices. Maybe it is because I grew up in a food town (New Orleans) or have a family whose reunions and vacations revolve around meals but to me the most important meetings on my calendar involve the people I want to break bread with.

Face to Face

Call me old-fashioned, but I genuinely prefer face-to-face meetings over phone, e-mails, Skype or text message communication. Whether you focus on B2B (business to business) or B2C (business to consumer), ultimately it all comes down to P2P (person to person) and there is nothing that beats sharing a meal to foster a better relationship with someone (a cross country plane ride can be too risky if you do not hit it off)! With so many people gravitating to 140 character conversations today, I worry that the personal touch is missing from business conversation.

Intimate Relationships

Is anyone else concerned that there is a false sense of intimacy between “Facebook friends” who barely know each other? Are companies today more concerned with office productivity metrics and keeping costs down than in fostering deeper relationships with customers, clients, employees and vendors? Has anyone actually measured the tradeoff between quarterly earnings and lifetime value of your customers? In the spirit of full disclosure I will admit that I do not Tweet and I am not one of the 700 million people on Facebook. I realize there may be some readers who question whether I can be effective as an entrepreneur and business owner in 2010 without a proactive social media strategy but that is a risk I am willing to take.

Meet over a Meal

Back to my preferred mode of communication, meeting over a meal allows you to get to know your client, prospect or colleague both professionally and personally. I guess I should also admit that I am not a big capabilities presentation or PowerPoint person so having a conversation over a meal really plays to my strengths. It can be awkward to take notes over linguini so having a good memory for details and follow up is critical. A few friendly tips that might also be helpful:

  • Choose a restaurant where you can have a conversation without screaming over the noise
  • Order food that is not too complicated or messy to eat while chatting
  • Turn off your cell phone and PDAs, there is nothing that sends a signal that your time and presence matter more than giving someone your undivided attention at all times
  • Don’t just talk shop, ask about their interests, family, hobbies, travels. Getting to know what makes people tick will help you be a better strategist, coach, boss, colleague, consultant and friend.

Ladies that Lunch

Bottom line is that I do not see lunch as a luxury. The body needs nourishment several times over the course of a day so you really do need to stop and eat every now and then. Meals used to be a pleasure, something you enjoyed not a quick distraction while on the go or in your car to relieve a splitting headache. So, do you have time to grab a bite? After all, a girl’s gotta eat!

About the author: Paige Arnof-Fenn is Founder & CEO of Mavens & Moguls, a global marketing strategy consulting firm whose clients include early stage startup companies as well as world class brands such as Virgin, Colgate, and The New York Times Company

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