How to host the perfect dinner party for clients

May 21, 2016



Written by Lance Chung

Manners matter, and if it’s anyone that understands that, it’s this woman. One of Canada’s chief etiquette experts, Toronto’s Lisa Orr is the authority that Bay street goes to when it needs to brush up on its behavior and prep for something that requires a little finesse.


Etiquette, what’s that?

With etiquette, if you know the rules, then you have more confidence in the way you’re interacting with each other. And you never know what situations you’re going to be in. I was at a huge event with eight courses and sat next to an ambassador. I didn’t know that was going to happen, but I was ready for it. Also, knowing the rules helps show respect for other people. If you’ve taken the time to understand how they work, it shows that you respect the people around you enough to make the investment.

Business Dinners 101

First, consider what the purpose of the event is. If it’s a celebratory one, you might be able to do it out of your home. If you’re hosting a corporate event, private rooms are ideal because you have a closed space. And typically, even if it’s a closing dinner where information has already been passed, people may talk about elements of a deal that might not be public. So it’s better to have that in a contained environment.

Also, if it is a client event and you know something special about them, like their favourite restaurant or type of food, keeping that in mind can be useful because you’re celebrating them and trying to make a good impression.

Foreign friends

Understanding what cultural background they are coming from and what the rules are is crucial. It’s typical that you would observe the rules of the country that you’re in. So if you’re in Canada, you would be using Western etiquette. But if you’re going to another country, it’s really important to make sure you know all the rules, protocols and precedents, and who you need to send. Sometimes you have to match titles.

“…it shows that you respect the people around you enough to make the investment.”

— Lisa Orr

Tech at the table

I think there is a way to do it. When you’re at a table and people have their phones on and conversations can be recorded, my preference is to tell everyone to put their phones away so that the focus can be on the conversation. Of course, there are situations where that’s not going to work, but I think for many occasions, it can be done. Saying it upfront is totally OK.

Be on your guest behaviour

With tech at the table, you should voluntarily turn it off and put it away. You should also make sure you know the dress code. That can be a huge disaster if you’re not wearing the right outfit. And nowadays, it can be hard. I have a lot of entrepreneurial clients and their dress code is going to be a lot different than those on Bay street. It shows that you’ve taken the time to understand what the corporate culture is.

The day after

As a guest, you should always send a thank you note. There’s a perspective that it’s antiquated and hard, but I like to send physical notes. It takes a little longer to get there, so sometimes I’ll send an e-mail as well.