In the Event of an Event: How to establish your professional identity over a meal

I’ve been in the Leadership Development business for over 25 years, after 30 years of experience in an Executive Corporate setting. For the first time, I am seeing increased requests for personal presence and etiquette training. Preparing for a business event, client meal or everyday perception is more important now than ever.  Why? It separates the promotable, trained person from the ill-mannered.  And yes, it is important. People do notice how you conduct yourself during a meal.

  • Remain standing until host/hostess sits.
  • After your host has moved his/her napkin, place your napkin in your lap.
  • If ordering from a menu, let the host take the lead when ordering. This may give you an idea of what to select. Follow their lead. If the host isn’t first in line to order, ask for a recommendation.
  • Order foods that require you to use utensils and are easy to eat. Avoid hand held food like ribs, fried chicken, or spaghetti.
  • etiquette training tablewareConfused with all the tableware? Begin from the outside and work your way in.
  • Not sure which bread plate to use? Remember B.M.W. – Bread (solid food) on your left, Meal in the middle and Water (liquids) on your right.
  • Cut your entree one bite size piece at a time. Do the same with your salad.
  • hew and swallow each piece before attempting the next. Enjoy your food. Don’t choke it down like a starving animal.
  • Hold your knife or fork with the thumb and three fingers, keeping the index finger extended on the handle. Questions? Ask me!!
  • With dinner rolls, break off and butter one small piece of bread at a time on the plate and avoid making a sandwich.
  • When sharing a sauce with others, spoon some of it onto your plate. Pass both the plate and the sauce bowl.
  • Rest your forearm on the edge of the table and keep your elbows and arms off the table.
  • In conversation, don’t talk with your mouth full. Remember to put your silverware on your plate, not on the table.
  • Maintain good eye contact.
  • This is not your last meal so don’t overeat. And don’t ask to finish anyone else’s food.
  • Don’t like the food? Don’t make a scene. Tell your host or hostess in advance of any food allergies.
  • Do say “please” and “thank you,” people do notice. And don’t forget to do the same with your wait staff.
  • Finished with your meal? Wait until your host or hostess places the knife and fork prongs down side by side on the plate with the handles at 4 o’clock. Then you do the same. The waiter will understand this as the “I am finished” position.
  • Don’t use toothpicks at the table unless the hostess says it is ok. And don’t pick food out of your teeth with your fingers.  Excuse yourself and go to the restroom.
  • Make sure you thank the host for the meal. Shake hands before you leave and maintain good eye contact.

Dining Napkin

  • Place to the right or left of your plate if you leave your chair. Another approach is to leave the napkin on your chair. Your choice.
  • Place to the left of your plate if your meal is finished.
  • Pass anything at the table counter clock wise.
  • Pass salt and pepper together. Always.
  • Do not reach across the table.  Ask for condiments to be passed to you.
  • Always use serving utensils to lift food from serving platter. Do not use your utensils

But wait there’s more. . .

  • Turn off your cell phone before sitting down. Don’t be rude and take a call, unless you have explained to your hostess that you have an emergency developing and need to take a call.
  • If you are drinking from a stemmed glass, hold it by the stem not by the bowl.
  • Never use a toothpick or dental floss at the table.
  • You may discreetly reapply your lipstick, but nothing else at the table.
  • Before adding salt, pepper, or seasoning, taste your food first. It is insulting to your host or hostess if you season prior to tasting.
  • Never blow on your food. If it is hot, wait a few minutes for it to cool off.

For more information please visit my Dec 2017 post on Holiday Protocol for additional ideas.  Do you have any to add?  I look forward to hearing from you.

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