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Mind Over Manners

What you need to know to make a great impression at your next business meal

This story appears in the May 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Do your palms sweat when you think about hosting a business meal? Do you shrink in terror at the idea of holding the right fork? Do you know what the proper seating arrangements are? With so many rules to keep straight, we went to Dana May Casperson, business etiquette expert and author of Power Etiquette: What You Don't Know Can Kill Your Career (Amacom), for practical tips to help you clear your worries clean off the table.

Before you even get to the restaurant, advises Casperson, have a few topics of conversation ready. An interesting tidbit about yourself can be a great opener, for example. "Plan some questions you can ask, because people like to talk about themselves," she says. Because it's improper to talk business until after the entrée dishes are cleared, make sure you're ready to discuss current events, good movies, business books and the like before and during the meal.

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