(Photo: Sean Lanigan)
By Sean Lanigan
How much do you know about business etiquette? Would you be able to master sitting at a business dinner and know the protocol?
If I was invited to dinner with high ranking people from my dream job, would I know what to do? Many of my questions were answered at a Professional Dining Etiquette Workshop at Five Towns College on February 18th.
Before the event, I asked Kristi O’Rourke, Director of Career Services, why seminars like this are important. She said, “Students need to learn how to feel comfortable discussing business with potential clients and employers over a meal.”
Here are some of the top tips that I learned:
If you’re at a networking event, before dinner even starts, introduce yourself to the people you don’t know. It is proper to approach people at a networking event.
Try not to order the most expensive menu item. Though I instinctively knew about that part, I didn’t realize that it also applied to the cheapest option on the menu too. Looking back, I did this a couple of years ago during a career-related conversation, and maybe that was the reason I didn’t get the opportunity. By ordering the least expensive dish on the menu, clients or employers might view the selection as too cautious.
Another tip I learned was to be mindful and considerate when topics such as religion or politics were discussed. When inquiring about general topics that are appropriate to discuss at dinner; movies, theater, sports, books, food, travel, and hobbies are all good ice breakers. Plus, demonstrating interest in others shows that you are approachable and friendly.
Dining Etiquette in the Downbeat Cafe (Photo: S. Lanigan)
Overall, this event was a success. It made students feel more confident in heading into this kind of situation. Billo Gatzonis, Mass Communications major at Five Towns College, found the event to be very beneficial, saying, “This is a good event for students to attend. It was very informative. I now know that every time you leave the table, you put your napkin
on your chair.”
According to Dennis Cornell, an expert on business protocol based in Los Angeles, people shouldn’t take this advice for granted. He advises in Forbes.com that “They may be looking to see if you’re a team player. They may be looking to see how you treat the waiter because that says something about how you’ll treat someone of lesser rank at the company.”
Table setting guidelines (Photo: S. Lanigan)
Sometimes the smallest mistake might make someone miss out on a life-changing opportunity. That’s why it is smart to research and be prepared for everything. John Nessenthaler, a Mass Communications major at Five Towns College, found the experience to be very helpful. He said, “I wanted to learn about overall etiquette in these kinds of situations. I learned things, such as the location of where the bread plate should go.” Frankly, I didn’t know that the bread plate should always be on the left side of the diner either.
If students want more information on this event, or any other helpful career events, they can visit The Career Services Center at Five Towns College. And if I am ever lucky enough to land an interview with my dream job, working for World Wrestling Entertainment, I can confidently put into practice professional dining business etiquette. On that day, I will make sure to be the etiquette world champion.