Eating on the Job Part 2: Special Situations - Small Meetings, Overseas Events

Dinner and tabletLast week, we discussed eating and drinking on the job. The main conclusion was that, unless a specific invitation is extended to dine with the group, it's best to make separate dining arrangements for event staff and entertainers. However, sometimes there are special situations.

Small , Overseas Meetings and Incentives

For small incentive trips and overseas meetings and team building retreats, there may be just one event planner, facilitator, or Travel Director present.

  1. The first thing to remember is that is is always important to respect the space and privacy of guests during downtime.
  2. To avoid awkward situations, check on the dinner reservations of your party and, if necessary, modify your plans to give guests privacy. (If guests see you dining alone they may feel obligated to invite you to join their party but this may not be what everyone present thinks is appropriate.)
  3. If a regular guest from multiple trips seeks you out in advance and invites you to dine with them at an all-inclusive, double check that everyone in the party will be comfortable if you are present.

    Accept the invitation only if you can focus without constantly texting or checking emails to deal with event logistics. Order something simple and don't dominate the conversation. Be careful with your answers to questions as you may leave yourself open for embarrassing personal questions.
  4. Unless invited, don't linger at the bar either when the group congregates at the end of the evening. Say hello if you pass by, check in, be friendly, and then move on if your assistance is not required.
  5. If it is a long trip, be sure to schedule clearly defined days off and agree on these with the client. Otherwise, think of the entire time you are offsite and the group is at the location as "work time" and make decisions about what is appropriate accordingly.

Dining at Remote Locations

Another scenario event planners and travel directors sometimes face is dining at events at remote outdoor locations (e.g. the desert or a beach).

It's best to set up a separate tent or table to serve staff before guests arrive. If this is not possible (e.g. full day events), always serve the guests first. Event carefully crafted plans can get derailed.

I recall one desert event at which I was a facilitator. An internal planner handled the catering and logistics. The caterers neglected to request an extra table so the area that had been allocated for staff dining and breaks was re-assigned. Event staff and the facilitator (me) were invited to help themselves to the buffet after all guests had been served and sit at empty spaces in the guest tents. Under such a scenario, always ask "Is it all right if I join you?" Don't just barge in.

In fact, if I am working as the sole event planner or facilitator/event planner at a remote location, I generally err on the side of caution and wait until guests have had seconds before I dine.

Group Dining

Sometimes, when there is just one event planner or Travel Director present, a special meal has been catered for a private group event. While it may seem easier to just dine with the group. Never assume. Make plans to dine at a separate venue close to the group dinner before the group arrives. You can always modify them if a specific invocation is extended.

Some clients do invite the senior event planner to join them for dinner and they will perceive it as anti-social if you decline an invitation to dine with the group. In those cases, join the group but ensure that your etiquette is beyond reproach.

No two groups are the same. Even with regular clients, staff changes can result in changing expectations. The junior team member of today may be your prime contact in years to come. From year to year, always ask, never assume.

Photo Credit: Edsel Little

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