by Kelsey Field
Etiquette is practiced in order to create comfort and ease within a particular environment. Instead of focusing on the difficulty of specific etiquette rules, it is important to understand the role of etiquette: to create a relaxed environment for everyone. This atmosphere is easily attainable in the business world once the conventions and practices are understood.
For some people, the first step can be the hardest: picking out what to wear. Prior to one’s event, find out if there are already preconceived expectations for what is appropriate. Is it business casual or business formal? Business formal apparel is usually defined by the number of pieces worn. Three pieces are standard. This means a jacket (a sweater is considered casual), dress shirt or blouse, and dress pants or a skirt are considered proper. Business casual is typically two pieces. Therefore a dress shirt, tie, and pants or a dress would fall under the casual terms. Interviews, of course, should always be considered business formal, unless otherwise stated. If the event has no clear specifications, it is always better to over-dress than under-dress and arrive about five minutes early.
The next step is to do research. If a meeting or interview will consist of newly encountered people, research who they are. It is necessary to appear knowledgeable as to who someone important is in order to avoid offending anyone or seeming uninformed. Refresh on people’s names before events. A good trick if one has forgotten an important name is to try introducing him to someone he may not know. By asking if he has met “Sally Smith,” he may respond, “No, I’m John Brown.”
While in a meeting or during an event, it is encouraged to broaden the conversation by pulling in personal aspects. Be open to mentioning a few personal topics during a conversation. This allows for one to become distinguishable and memorable and opens the door for the other person in the conversation to do the same. Creating an actual relationship with other co-workers or bosses through tasteful and appropriate conversations is the first step to networking. Keep notes on people pertaining to their interests, including the basics, like names or company affiliations. An attentive and responsive conversationalist will find many openings to multiple opportunities in the future.
Wrap up a meeting, event, or interview with a thoughtful, handwritten note. Taking the time to give credit to someone’s hard work or thanking someone for their time help set one apart from the rest.
For more information on dining and business etiquette, be sure to attend the Etiquette Dinner on Wednesday, April 4th from 6 – 8 PM in Alumni Hall where there will be a free catered meal. Space is limited, so sign up ahead of time at www.UVA2014.com.