Business protocol and etiquette
Getting it right and putting people at ease

- By Robin Gallagher Branch

You may not realize it, but your professional future quite likely depends on how you enter a room, shake hands and sit.

"Protocol is black and white," says Gloria Auth, protocol and etiquette specialist with Edmond-based Protocol Plus. "It's knowing things like how to address people, how to fold a napkin and when to stand. Etiquette is situational. It's being considerate and respectful and making someone else feel at ease."

Put another way, having good manners and exhibiting confidence in business situations translates into money - money for your company and promotions for you. Businesspeople deal with those they know, trust and like. And trust starts with that first meeting.

  • First Impressions Count

  • Auth, who peppers her business protocol and etiquette seminars with tips, stresses first impressions. "They're crucial. Make eye contact. Dress appropriately. Exude confidence. Do all these things because your actions are under constant scrutiny," she says. A handshake tells a lot about you. "I teach a good web-to-web one. It's vertical, straightforward. Pump two firm pump," Auth says. Make sure nothing like a table separates you from the person with whom you shake hands. Always stand for introductions and a handshake. In modern business situations, equality of gender prevails, Auth says," even thought this is hard on older men who are used to doing things differently."

  • Time to eat

  • Business matters often revolve around food. There is a correct way to extend and invitation for a business lunch. "Always give the exact time, place and purpose. Don't leave people hanging. Give them a heads-up so they know what to expect. That's basic consideration," Auth says.

    Who pays? Show class by handling the check beforehand. Arrive early. Give the waiter your credit card in advance; specify a 20 percent tip. "This is an especially good way if a woman takes a man to lunch," Auth advises. "There is no awkwardness, and the waiter is so pleased with his tip that he gives great service"

  • Schmoozing

  • Surviving the business party is a learnable skill. "I call it the art of schmoozing," Auth laughs. Schmoozing begins with wearing a nametag on the right," because the eye goes there during the handshake," she explains. Leave your right hand free by carrying your drink in your left.

    Walk into a room - standing in the doorway makes you look timid or as if you want to draw attention to yourself. "Act as if you belong. Put your hands at your side; leave them there. Smile. Stand up straight," Auth says. As soon as you arrive, present yourself to your host. "This lets him know you are a team player and ready to be involved in the purposes of the party," she continues. Say goodbye when you leave.

  • The art of conversation

  • What do you do if a talker corners you? "Say, 'I've really enjoyed speaking with you and look forward to chatting again. I see someone now with whom I need to speak," Auth counsels.

    If you attend a party alone, gravitate toward a group of three or another single. "Avoid two because they may be talking on a personal level," Auth says. Introduce yourself with your first and last names and the name of your company.

    In social situations, focus on the other person. Ask open-ended questions rather than ones requiring a yes or no. "Look at that person and let him know you're listening," Auth says. If you compliment, do so sparingly by sticking to an action rather than a physical attribute.

    Avoid controversial subjects. Never present a sales pitch ""It makes you look needy" Auth explains). Never discuss your health or diet. Center on the weather restaurants, current events, music, movies, books and food.

  • Making introductions

  • Introductions in the business world differ from those in the social world. In social situations, say the woman's name first. For example, "Ann, I'd like to introduce George to you. Mr. George Smith, Ms Ann Jones." In the business world since gender equality prevails, name the higher-ranking person first. "Mr. Senior Executive, I'd like to introduce Mr. Junior Executive," Auth instructs.
    Remember this: manners, especially in introductions, are more noticeable in their absence. "Good manners take you above and beyond. They make you really, really stand out," Auth says. 'Like it or not, a good impression translates into whether you can handle other situations. A poor impression translates into if you botch a social situation, you might botch other situations." . . .

    Oklahoma Business Monthly - Adult Education - July 2001

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