By Michael Harris-Arzon, The Simplistic Professional
Most professionals feel such a sense of relief when Friday, finally, rolls around. I know I did for many years. Besides the fact that it means the weekend is almost here, they love being able to dress down for a change. But, I always had a hard time with the casual Friday dress code. I think it had something to do with the fact, that when I started my career, it was expected that you would wear a full suit at and out of work, anytime you were representing the company.
One thing I have always liked, is the tradition of drinks after work and networking events with your peers. Once I had sufficiently moved up within the ranks and I started having control over how I brought business in or branded the company, I would think outside the box. With a company credit card in my back pocket and an entertaining budget that rivaled most professionals yearly salary, I started planning events that I wanted to attend myself.
Now, I know that may sound selfish or self serving, but to be honest, there is a greater chance of success if you are enjoying yourself as much as your peers and guests. This means, you are relaxed and more capable of pitching the business, product or brand you are meant to be representing. Remember, as the professional, you are the expert in your field and at what you do. But many times, nerves or stress intervene and that interprets into loss of business.
When being entertained, most of your potential clients and even your peers, expect the dinner at the fancy restaurant or drinks after work at the trendiest bar. This becomes a bit boring and that is never good when you may be pitching a quarter of a million dollar deal. But, if you can surprise them and provide an unlikely local and environment, you have gotten their attention right away.
Picnics are also a great way to show appreciation to those you work with. Invite them and their entire family to an afternoon of food, sun and fun and watch the tension from the previous work week disappear.
Picnics are such a great idea, because they can be held in so many different locations and spark a variety of feelings that determine the actual experience of your guests. Wherever you choose to host your picnic, be sure to showcase your personal style and make it as comfortable as possible.
After your peers, potential clients and other guests have been there for a while, and have had time to enjoy the food, drinks and company, you can start to talk business (I recommend doing it one by one so you have their full attention). I say, after a while, because you want to give everyone a chance to relax and imbibe a few alcoholic cocktails. This gives you a much better chance at getting a YES, when you ask for their business. Now, I would recommend that you keep a close eye on how much each targeted person is drinking and their tolerance level. If they are tipsy or outright drunk, there is no chance of a deal being made or a new relationship being formed.
When it comes to the drinks that you serve, you may want to stick to a collection of beers. And if you must have stronger alcohol, then develop drinks that are on the sweeter side and cut the called for alcohol in half. By the drinks being a bit sweet, your guests probably will not notice that there isn’t much alcohol in them.
So the next time you are planning a professional event, consider hosting a picnic (weather permitting of course) and showcase your creativity and personal style along side your professional expertise.