Part II: Another Chicken Dinner – 10+ Etiquette Tips at the Table

This is Part II of “Business Etiquette FUN-damentals,” a three-part series for Progressions. 2011 National Conference

In my last Progressions post about business etiquette, I shared some overarching explanations and underlying philosophies about etiquette and then shared six tips for networking at cocktail parties.

In today’s post, I’d like to share 10 tips about attending those fabulous “rubber chicken dinners” that we’re often asked to attend on behalf of our client or organization. We may also want to attend these events in order to broaden our contacts and relationships.

  • Introduce yourself and shake hands with each person at the table before you sit down. Look the person firmly in the eye, shake hands firmly, and say your name and organization clearly. If you are seated and someone comes over to introduce himself/herself, stand up to shake hands.
  • A woman is seated to the right of her gentleman companion. The gentleman holds the chair for the lady.
  • Once you are ready to eat, unfold your napkin and place it in your lap with the fold pointed away from you; if you have to dab your lips or quietly remove a piece of gristle or a small bone, you can easily bring the napkin to your lips with the open ends toward your mouth. If you leave the table to go greet someone or go to the restroom, place the napkin on your chair seat, not on the table. Remember, the napkin is not a handkerchief. When the meal is finished, place your napkin to left of your place setting, not folded in its original state and not piled on your plate.
  • Keep your elbows off the table. Do not appear to be “guarding” your food.
  • Pass food to your right (counter-clockwise).
  • Do not talk while chewing nor point or gesture with food on an eating utensil.
  • Pull your roll apart and butter small pieces of the roll and eat rather than buttering the entire roll/piece of bread. Obviously, this means you will have put a pat of butter on your bread plate.
  • Cut meat one or two pieces at a time (not the entire chicken breast at once).
  • If someone asks you to pass the salt, pick up the salt shaker and ask if they’d like the pepper, too.
  • When you have finished eating, place your knife (blade toward middle of plate) and fork at a diagonal (10 to 4 o’clock position) across the plate. The wait staff will know you are ready to have them pick up your plate.
  • BONUS: If you do not care for coffee and the coffee cup and saucer are on the table, turn your cup upside down in the saucer. The wait staff will know exactly what you mean and won’t have to interrupt you to ask if you care for coffee.

Part III: Next month, watch for additional tips that will make a business encounter go more smoothly and help you look like a champ: Who holds the door for whom? Who picks up the tab? What are the rules for entering and exiting an elevator?

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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