Part I: Business Etiquette FUN-damentals

Who holds the door? Who gets on an elevator first? What do I do with my napkin when I need to excuse myself from the table? Do I pass food to my right or left? Do I have to go to another networking event?

Questions of business etiquette plague all of us – from those just entering the workforce to senior professionals. Because many of you are just beginning your corporate experience or are transitioning from school to internships to the “real” world, I’d like to share some tips about business etiquette that hopefully will add to your personal and professional tool kit and that might prevent some embarrassing moments for you.

First: Etiquette Explained

Most often, understanding WHY something is done or said helps a person adapt more easily to the situation at hand. So – there’s no need to memorize the rules, you just need to internalize the reasoning. (credit given to many websites, blogs, books, and my mom’s common sense)

  • Etiquette has to do with good manners. It’s not so much our own good manners, but making other people feel comfortable by the way we behave.
  • Etiquette is simply showing respect for others and yourself at the same time.
  • Manners are common sense; a combination of generosity of spirit and specific know-how. Rules of etiquette are the guiding codes that enable us to practice manners.
  • Respect, kindness, and consideration form the basis of good manners and good citizenship. Etiquette becomes the language of manners.

Next: Six Tips to Meeting People at Networking Events    

  • Wear your nametag on the right side where it is easily visible. People can shake your hand and won’t have to move their eye contact to see your name. Remember, you are helping THEM feel comfortable and want them to remember your name.
  • Promise yourself before you go that you will make 3-5 new contacts (introduce yourself/meet) before you leave the mandatory/boring/fabulous event. Give yourself permission to go and to leave as necessary, but make sure it was worth both your time and the time of those you met.
  • Shake hands firmly (don’t squeeze) and look people in the eye. Do not offer your hand if the person would have to juggle food or drink to shake hands. Carry your beverage in your left hand so that your right is free to shake hands and won’t be cold or wet from holding a drink.
  • Have conversational questions in mind before you arrive. Remember that people like to talk about themselves, so just ask questions: What brought you to this event? What do you think about (topic)? Make references to recent activities/events – movies, award shows, sporting events, etc.
  • When you receive a business card, make a verbal comment about the card or the information on it as it is given to you– don’t pocket it as if it were just another card you’re probably not going to look at. When you return to the office or your home, make sure you record – on the card – any date/event/additional information you learned. Also note if you are to follow up with an email or call.

This is Part I of “Business Etiquette FUN-damentals,” a three-part series for Progressions. Look out for Part II coming next month.

Geri A. Evans, APR is President/CEO of Evans PR Group. She is a member of the PRSA National Board and is a PRSA Board Liaison to PRSSA. Find her on Twitter at @gevans22.

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