Think of the napkin being unfolded by the host like the curtain going up in a theater. The meal begins when the host unfolds his or her napkin. This is your signal to do the same. Place your napkin on your lap, completely unfolded. Typically, you want to put your napkin on your lap soon after sitting down at the table (but follow your host's lead).
If there is not a host just a group of friends, think of the napkin being unfolded and put across your lap as the signal of the meal and conversation beginning. So the putting your napkin on your lap is like pushing the play button on a YouTube video it starts the meal and the full flow of conversation. Just like you leave your sheets on your bed while you’re sleeping the napkin remains on your lap throughout the entire meal and if you get up from the table during the meal, place your napkin on your chair.
Patti Wood, MA, Certified Speaking Professional - The Body Language Expert. For more body language insights go to her website at www.PattiWood.net. Check out Patti's website for her new book "SNAP, Making the Most of First Impressions, Body Language and Charisma" at www.snapfirstimpressions.com. Also check out Patti's YouTube channel at http://youtube.com/user/bodylanguageexpert.