Etiquette savvy

Marvin Center room??Oct. 21, 200010:15 a.m.

Not being the most etiquette-savvy kid out there, I decided to attend the Business Etiquette Seminar sponsored by the L.E.A.D. Center. One problem was that I had to be there by 10 a.m. and I could not exactly show up looking like a mess – my most frequent offense is mixing black shoes with a brown purse.

I walked into the seminar around 10:15 a.m. (Note to self: punctuality is important. So is registration, especially if those who forget to register must face the public humiliation of a handwritten name tag, when all those who registered in advance get snazzy, typed ones with plastic holders.)

About 30 students were at the seminar and we were briefed on the three sections of the seminar. The first part of the day would be basic etiquette 101, then business etiquette and professionalism and, finally, dining etiquette.

GW alumna Nikki Poindexter led the discussion about the role of etiquette, first impression techniques for meeting business people, telephone and electronic etiquette and proper protocol for conducting meetings.

I learned that eye contact is very important for the purpose of illustrating sincere interest. Posture is a good indication of energy level and interest, and hand gestures utilizing an open palm are most effective. Even a simple thing like introductions has a proper etiquette. When introducing two people, it is important to introduce the person with the most seniority first and not to leave anyone out of a round of introductions who is within earshot.

Then we got to my personal favorite: handshakes. I can honestly say I never took them as seriously as I should have.

Although business is certainly not in my future, the etiquette I learned can be applied to many other areas. I think I will put my new eye contact and handshake skills to good use in academic interviews, auditions and even the occasional meet-the-extended-family scenarios with the boyfriend that have previously made me a little uneasy.

Unfortunately, I was unable to stay for the finale of the etiquette session, which included a complimentary four-course lunch. Glancing over the agenda, though, I can tell you that it would have been an enlightening experience to say the least. I never knew that salt and pepper should always be passed together or that it is important to hold a water glass with all fingers touching the glass. The basics were a little easier – no talking with your mouth full and try to avoid topics like gossip and dirty jokes when at a formal meal.

After this experience maybe I will take more care to make eye contact with new people and grasp their hands firmly, but I would not count on the clashing purse and shoes being remedied any time soon.

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