Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Etiquette 101

Susan Callender, etiquette expert.

For every young person starting out in their career there will always be the very first real business dinner, lunch or business trip. It pays to know your etiquette and not commit some unrealized faux pas that could tarnish one's budding image with upper management. We touched base with Boston's own etiquette expert, Susan Callender, who is regularly quoted and interviewed in the national media, for some advice. We asked some pressing questions for her five top tips on etiquette. Here are some of her sage words to consider:

Exhibiting proper manners and soft skills is important because it shows people so much about you without your having to utter a word. We teach something that we refer to as The Sevens; The first Seven Seconds, The first Seven Steps, The first Seven Words. It takes virtually no time at all to evaluate an individual. When it comes to dining and business travel, one must truly be cognizant in creating and managing their professional image and not allow others to manage it for them.

While seemingly simple and straightforward, the questions you have posed are rather broad and far-reaching, in fact the responses could fill a book or mini guide. It is difficult to limit the list of etiquette and soft skills faux pas to five, as you have requested, however the following list includes those that can help an individual to sink or swim. The choice is theirs.

1) Timeliness. Being on time, not too early and definitely not late is an instant indicator of a lack of deference to your host, client or colleague. Manage your time to arrive within five minutes prior or promptly at the appointed hour.

2) Put away the cell phone! Everyone has one and no one is impressed with yours. Do not even use it in a waiting area. If you must have it turned on in the event that your host may contact you via telephone, have it on silent and ignore any other communications and text messages that may be transmitted during that waiting period. Never text in front of a superior. It pigeon holes you. You may use your smart phone at the table to access your calendar if this is necessary during the meal.

3) Learn the art of small talk and conversational volley ball. A business meal is not all business. The young person must be up on current topics and be able to discuss a wide variety of topics with grace and ease. Do not be afraid to initiate conversational topics. This shows your confidence and ability to make a good impression when sent out into the field in the future.

4) Table Manners - Oh, where to begin. Each aspect of what is considered proper table manners is learned, whether during childhood by elders or in a formal school course. From how to sit, to when and how to place the napkin on the lap, what each utensil is used for each course, how to pass items, what to order and how to consume your selection like a lady or gentleman. The dining table is a minefield of potential career ending or limiting errors. It is in everyones best interest to learn the finer points of dining with finesse. It can make all the difference in the world, as well as your paycheck.

5) Order your meal like a pro. A business meal, particularly over lunch is largely about the conversation and not about the food. Be cognizant of price as well as ease of consumption when making your selections. Do your best to temper your complaints.

Domestic & Foreign Travel
Pack like a Pro. Anyone can identify a novice traveler by the quantity and style of their luggage, whether they tip, present themselves with decorum and limit alcohol in flight and in hotel bars. Know your itinerary; be courteous and gracious when placing items in overhead bins and assisting others with their items. Become familiar with the customs, protocol and delicacies of the area to which you are traveling. Treat everyone with the utmost respect and you will be surprised that people will most likely treat you in a similar manner.

Listen up guys: deference to ladies, thank you and please, keep your sports voice down, join in the conversation with an idea and, mostly, just be polite.

Susan also conducts classes for those wishing a more in-depth review. It certainly can't hurt and is most likely to make you a real memorable standout with business associates or clients who may be quick to form first impressions. Check out her website for more information: Oh My Gauche.

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