Food, Booze, & Business: 5 Tips for Frequent Flyer Fun

Don’t be "Pelvis Presley" drunkenly dancing your way out of a business deal. (Getty Images)
Don’t be
Business is all about relationships. Embracing ones that feel like old friendships and making new ones that open frontiers. Building and maintaining relationships is the literal lifeblood of business.

Hence, we schmooze. As the old saying goes, “There’s nothing wrong with working your ass off as long as you keep your head on.” The same can be said for partying it up during business travel.

Golf outings, sporting events, lunch dates, dinner meetings, conferences, trade shows, cocktail parties, night club outings, and destination retreats are just a few examples of how we put the fun in the fundamentals of business relationships.

Schmoozing, however, can come at a cost. Many an executive has shared with me the damage they’ve done over the years by eating too much, drinking too often, and sleeping too little in the course of schmoozing or getting schmoozed.

True story: A friend of mine was negotiating the sale of his business to a prospective buyer at a five-star resort. Things were going well over dinner and the deal was just about wrapped up. But upon returning to the hotel lounge for a celebratory nightcap, the buyer took exception to my friend’s business partner doing a sloppy bump ‘n grind on the dance floor with the buyer’s equally inebriated wife. After a brief shoving match between the buyer and “Pelvis Presley,” the deal came to let’s say, a grinding halt. Close but no cigar.

Here are 5 road-tested techniques you can employ to enjoy the fun of business travel while avoiding the train wreck of one too many:

Anticipate. Know ahead of time when you’re likely to encounter pressure to eat and drink with others. DO IT and enjoy. . . in moderation. When you reach your pre-determined limit for food and drink, don’t feel guilty about politely saying no. In 30 years of coaching, I’ve never heard of an executive losing a deal because he or she didn’t join in on the fourth round of flaming tequila shots.    

Alternate drinks with a glass of water or soda water with lemon. You can have the fun of socializing without the calories (and potential calamities) of too much booze.

Eat just one of everything and gorge on nothing. We don’t get fat from eating. We get fat from eating too much. Sample and graze. Avoid the trap of nervous eating. Breathe, relax, and enjoy.

Have an exit strategy for making a gracious departure. Don’t feel as if you have to pull an all-nighter to show appreciation. Be firm yet polite when it’s time to go. Often times your peers will gratefully follow your example while they can still find the door.

Act like a pro: Peer pressure shouldn’t dictate your behavior. Experienced pros know the ropes when schmoozing and they leave amateur hour to the rookies. Exuding confidence and self-control is always preferable to throwing up in the elevator and looking like a corpse at breakfast the next morning.

Follow these five steps and you’ll always benefit from the difference between road warrior and road kill.

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