Modern Etiquette: "Seats of Power" in business entertaining

Mon Sep 10, 2012 8:40am EDT
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By Pamela Eyring

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - In the business world so much energy goes into getting it right at the negotiating table even the savviest business executive can forget how to play it smart at another equally important table: The dining table. And I'm not talking about silencing your phone during a meal and knowing which fork to use.

One of the most important aspects of any form of business entertainment is the seating chart.

Where you place your guests, especially international guests, conveys volumes about the level of esteem you hold them in as well as your own understanding about of protocol. If you get it right, everyone feels respected and you look like a pro. A clear win-win.

Here are the finer points of Business Seating Strategies:

* Always choose a restaurant or venue that you are familiar with. Book well in advance to secure the best table, avoiding tables that face a mirror or are near the kitchen or restrooms. If you have an odd number of guests, request a round table so that no one sits next to an empty seat.

* When creating a seating chart, the position of honor is always to the right of the host. If you have more than one honored guest then the second highest-ranking guest sits to your left. When there is a third honored guest they sit to the right of your first honored guest. You'll notice that gender does not play a role in determining a seat of honor while rank does.

* If multiple languages are to be spoken, include appropriately placed interpreters at the table.

* Share your seating plan with the maitre'd or let them know that you will be directing seating when you arrive. For large groups you may wish to use place cards.   Continued...