Today, your average nine to five has been extended in the best possible way—you’re going out to take care of some unattended business over drinks. Whether it’s after hours or a wet lunch, here’s how to not screw it up.
Get down to business
The first rule of conducting business over drinks is to do just that—conduct business. Stay focused on the task at hand, and get to it quickly. Sure, there will be some secrets spilled, some spitballing about future projects and some rumours shared, but at the end of the day, all that matters is that you closed your deal. The drinks are just there for something to do with your hands, if that. Consider the corner booth your boardroom and conduct yourself accordingly.
Stake out your territory
Speaking of which, the reason many people choose to talk shop at a bar is that it the location seems neutral, even fun, unlike one of your respective offices. It makes them ideal places to strike a deal, without pressure on either party. But you want to put that pressure on, if only a little. Take the upper hand by owning the place, metaphorically, of course. Treat bar employees with respect, not unlike your own coworkers. Know the menu, know the layout. This will give you a psychological edge over a guy seated across from you, who is stuck in unfamiliar territory.
Consider the person sitting across from you
Drinks with your boss can be entirely different from drinks with a colleague, or even with a client. Each come with different sets of rules. With your boss, drink less and more slowly than you think you should. He’ll pick up the tab. With a colleague, splitting the bill is ideal, and you should strive to keep idle chatter to a minimum. If you’re entertaining a client, be assertive and confident with your order and set the pace for the meeting. However, in this case, the tab’s on you.
Limit yourself to two drinks, tops
Two drinks are always the maximum and, arguably, also the minimum. That number offers the perfect amount of lubrication and also gives each side the option to order (and pay for) one round each as a show of goodwill. Try drinking both beverages at the same pace as the guy across from you, if possible, and then go straight for water—don’t worry, they’ll follow your cue. Once you have finished up and closed the deal, don’t celebrate with a third round. Once your business is over, so is your meeting.
Order a serious drink
It may be summer, but a margarita won’t cut it. (Aside: if they serve margaritas, you’re probably in the wrong bar.) Martinis are just as bad. Much like your suit, your order should say something about you, and that is: I mean business. A beer from the bottle is fine. A whisky-and-something or Scotch neat is even better, plus it’s easier to pace yourself with something slowly sipped than with a cold brew. Gauge how long the meeting is expected to last and order accordingly.