5 Questions To Ask About Corporate Etiquette Training

The global business climate has never been more competitive than it is today. It is more important than ever for managers, business owners and employees to understand good corporate etiquette. The word “etiquette” might seem very out of date, but the essence of it is more important than ever. It is an essential business tool for individuals and companies, and it is an integral part of business culture throughout the world.

Here are 5 basic questions you can ask to find out if you or your business need corporate etiquette training…

1.        Do you know how to correctly introduce senior colleagues to important clients and why global rank and status is important in business?

2.        Do you know how and when to correctly give business cards or corporate gifts?

3.        When you invite potential clients or VIP’s for a business dinner, do you know the correct seating protocol for around the table and how to prepare a seating plan according to business precedence?

4.        During a business lunch, is it too early to talk business during starters or too late after dessert, do you know?

5.        Do you know the cultural customs and communication styles of the country you are dealing or negotiating with?

If you don’t know how to answer these questions, you will likely make unnecessary mistakes, give the wrong impression and lose a potential client.

So what is Corporate Etiquette? It’s not only about writing emails and attitudes in the workplace. It is a standard framework which allows the correct communication to take place in an environment free from distractions. This is a framework by which people of all cultures can use to relate to one another in business collaborations. Relationships can then develop, issues can be resolved and objectives can be met.

A lack of corporate etiquette can have a profound impact in business situations but incorporating appropriate business etiquette will distinguish you and your business from the competition. 

Find out more here about my full day and half day interactive courses in Corporate Etiquette & Protocol…

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International Business Etiquette - 8 Tips

Most people know the importance of understanding culture communication and that business is conducted differently throughout the world, yet this is an aspect in business that is frequently overlooked. As a result, even a subtle misunderstanding in cultural differences can cause tensions and jeopardize relationships.

When doing business at an international level, we must be knowledgeable about the different customs and traditions and remain respectful of these differences. Taking the time to understand these cultural variations can lead to a more positive image for your company and more successful negotiations.

Here are 8 important considerations for international business:

1.    Greetings and introductions – business and social greetings may differ.

2.    Titles and Forms of Address – the importance of business hierarchy varies around the world.

3.    Punctuality and concept of time – may or may not be a very important priority.

4.    Business Card Etiquette – there are country specific differences in the etiquette of giving and receiving business cards.

5.    Communication Styles (verbal & non verbal) – high-context v’s low-context cultures widely differ.

6.    Business Dining Etiquette – a universal practice yet with many cultural variations.

7.    Business Gift Giving – can be highly valued and an important part of business relationships.

8.    Business Dress Codes – match the level of formality of your international host.

One important point to remember when conducting business abroad -  it is considered polite to defer to the culture and tradition of the country you are visiting. That said, be sure to let common sense prevail. If you know your counterparts will arrive late for the meeting, err on the side of caution and arrive on time, just don’t let anyone think you’re rushing them!  
 

Valentine's Day Around The World

The customs associated with Valentine’s Day differ from place to place and from nation to nation, with many countries even celebrating “love” at a different time of year and some rituals are truly fascinating and unusual. The "rules" of etiquette are observed in their own unique ways all over the world.

Here are a few interesting customs from 5 countries around the world that share the celebration on February 14th, starting (of course) with the country currently hosting the winter olympics.

Korea – Traditionally it's the women who give the men a gift of chocolates, candies or sometimes even flowers. The custom dictates that the men will reciprocate with chocolates on March 14th, an occasion known as White Day. Koreans don't forget about singletons though, as April 14th is set aside for those who are not in any relationship. Given the name Black Day, they can to come together and console themselves by eating black (Jajang) noodles.

Japan – A similar custom to Korea takes place in Japan when the women give a gift of chocolate “Honmei Choco” to show romantic affection for the man in their lives. They will also offer a different type of chocolate to friends and colleagues, known as “Giri Choco”. When White Day comes around on March 14th, the women will wait in anticipation to receive their own gift of chocolates.

Finland - Actually known as 'Friend’s Day' (Ystävänpäivä), February 14th is a day of special meaning when close friends send cards and gifts to each other as a token of their appreciation and friendship. Typical celebrations take place over brunch or dinner. Although it’s becoming more commonplace to make declarations of love, this day is first and foremost about friendship.

Philippines – February 14th has become a true celebration of love and is a popular day for mass weddings. Couples who cannot afford a wedding are able to get married with the help of the government and other sponsors. According to Lordase Sajonas, a municipal civil registrar, the municipality sets aside a budget for this each year, “The mayor and other sponsors take care of all the expenses because the high cost of weddings is a major obstacle for so many couples. With this public service, couples just have to register ahead of time and show up on their wedding day… so having your wedding day on Valentine’s Day is a double celebration of love, at least that’s what many couples feel”.

Italy - The celebration of love in this romantic country is usually done with gift-giving and romantic dinners (as in many European countries). A traditional favourite chocolate is Baci Perugina. These delicious chocolate-covered hazelnuts come wrapped in their own love note!

So traditions may vary, but the feeling around the world on Valentine's Day is the same... share some love :) 

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

Hands On The Dining Table? Right or Wrong?

Well the answer to that question actually depends where in the world you are dining.

The Royal Family are correctly eating in a style named Continental European. Table manners and dining etiquette actually vary between countries so placing hands on a dining table can be considered either rude or essential

This particular style of dining etiquette dictates that hands and wrists should be placed on the dining table while eating, remaining visible at all times. It is frequently used in France, Spain and throughout most of Europe. Here's why...

As with most etiquette guidelines, particularly table manners, there is a historical trail behind the rule and in this case, it was a political reason. In the XVII Century, Louis XIV discovered a conspiracy to poison him with arsenic. Concerned that one of his guests at the dining table would try to kill him, he ordered that everyone keep their hands visible and placed on the table throughout every meal. As people wanted to imitate the aristocracy at that time, the rest of the country soon followed suit.

Don't expect to see much of this happening at a British dining table though, the custom spread throughout Europe but never reached Britain. Hands are always be placed on the lap when not eating. 

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

 

 

How To Survive a Formal Dinner - Cheat Sheet #2 - Forks, Knives & Spoons

Cheat Sheet #1 may have prepared you for the selection of glasses at a formal table setting but what about cutlery? Cocktail fork, salad fork, fish fork, dinner fork, dessert fork...where to start? Don’t worry, a little knowledge goes a long way.

Outside to inside: Knives and spoons are placed on the right of the place setting and forks are placed on the left (with a few exceptions mentioned below). Remember always to use the cutlery from the outside first, working inwards for each course.

Forks: When forks are placed on the left side of the plate, the first fork to use will be the outside one, perhaps for an appetizer or salad. Then for the following course use the next fork, perhaps for a fish course, until you reach the last one closest to the plate which will be the dinner fork (unless you are dining in Britain, where you might find the dessert fork closest to the plate). There may be two, three or four forks on the left side of the plate. The only fork placed on the right side of the place setting would be an oyster fork, which would be the very first fork you would use. If a fork is placed above the plate it will be for dessert.

Knives: Knives are placed on the right side of a formal place setting. Again, the first knife to use will be the outside one, then for the next course use the next knife, until you reach the last one closest to the plate which will be the dinner knife (the same order as for the forks). Sometimes there may be no knife to accompany a salad course, and there may be a knife above the plate alongside a fork and spoon for the dessert and cheese course. A small additional knife is placed on the bread plate, which is for spreading your butter.

Spoons: Beside the knives you may find a teaspoon, possibly for a sorbet and soup spoon which will be furthest to the right away from the plate (sometimes the oyster fork will be placed on top of the spoon). A dessert spoon may be placed horizontally above your plate, spoon facing left, fork right.

Sometimes the rules of etiquette and fine dining can seem ridiculous or intimidating, but in fact, understanding these rules removes the worry and uncertainty and lets you relax and enjoy the food and company! That said, if you find yourself confused by all the utensils, simply take your cues from others at the table, as it’s always polite to wait, after all!

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

How To Survive a Formal Dinner - Cheat Sheet #1 - Is That My Glass or Yours?

If you are not accustomed to formal dinners, sometimes it can be hard to figure out the place settings. At events where a large group of people are dining in close proximity (business event, wedding reception etc) and when there are several courses to be served, there will be an elaborate table setting with multiple glasses of various shapes and sizes. Sometimes the tables can be so crowded with silverware, crystalware and decorations that it can be difficult to identify what is yours and someone will inevitably ask, “Is that my glass or yours?”.

Keep in mind these easy tips to remember which glass is yours and when to use it…

The ‘B’ and ‘D’ sign
Using your forefinger and thumb make a circle to form the letter ‘b’ with your left hand and the letter ‘d’ with your right hand (similar to the ‘OK’ sign used in many countries). The ‘b’ in your left hand will remind you that your bread plate will be on the left of the table setting and the ‘d’ in your right hand will remind you that your drinks will be on the right side. Just be sure to do this under the table, otherwise those around you might wonder what you are trying to tell them!

Water glass to the left
The water glass should be placed above the dinner knife and the other glasses placed around it but this is not always the case on crowded tables.  If you have several glasses to choose from, remember that the water glass will always be the furtherest to the left or the closest to the plate.

Outside to inside
Follow the same principle used for using silverware by starting from the outside and working your way inwards. The glass to the furthest outside of the table setting will be for the first course, then the next one will be for the second course and so on.

Glasses at the back are for last
If there are more than three glasses they will be arranged in rows. The row of glasses at the back or behind are the glasses you will use for the last courses of the meal, for example the champagne for toasts given during dessert.

Don't worry too much about which glass to use. At formal events you will be served drinks by knowledgeable staff, so even if you don't remember which glass to use, they will remember for you. All you need to do is just wait for them to pour!

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

10 Reasons Why Afternoon Tea Is Good For Business

Many thoughts and words may come to mind when we hear ‘Afternoon Tea’ including pretentious, old-fashioned, Downton Abbey…to name a few. However in recent years, traditional afternoon tea has become increasingly advantageous for businesses. But why? Well apart from the fun factor, here are a few reasons why Afternoon Tea can be better than a business lunch or dinner…

1. It’s practical - It’s sophisticated without being pretentious, less intimidating for guests and very convenient as it doesn’t invade the private time of clients.
2. It’s less formal - It’s a great balance between the business lunch and business meal and is a more relaxing environment.
3. It’s less time consuming - Afternoon tea usually lasts one to two hours. Ideal for a client who may have a busy schedule. Business dinners usually last upwards of two hours and then someone inevitably wants to have drinks….
4. It’s cost effective - The menu is usually clear cut, with the option of including a glass of champagne (if you’re looking to impress) but no risk of expensive bottles of wine.
5. It’s more productive - It’s more likely to be considered part of the business day instead of an ‘after work’ event. Everyone will still be in business mode!
6. It’s a different atmosphere - It’s not a formal restaurant, yet not a conference room…perfect!
7. There's a tea for everyone! - Black tea, green tea, white tea, red tea, and usually there is a tea sommelier on hand to help advise on blends, what a treat!
8. Everyone has to share - Believe it or not, sharing actually fosters communication, consideration and conversation. Who doesn’t need that in business?
9. There's little or no alcohol - Clients are unlikely to order wine or drinks during afternoon tea, so everyone will have clear heads and focus on business. A glass of champagne along with afternoon tea will add an extra something special for an important guest.
10. It’s a great way to end the day - As afternoon tea usually takes place towards the end of the business day, everyone can head home afterwards feeling a sense of accomplishment and still have the evening ahead to enjoy.

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

Basic Body Language For Business

Believe it or not, your body language plays a vital role in business. People do business with people who make them feel comfortable.

Making some small adjustments to your body language can boost your confidence and as a result improve your professional relationships and job performance.

“Research has now shown convincingly that if you change your body language, you can change many things about your approach to life. You can alter your mood before going out, feel more confident at work, become more likeable, and be more persuasive or convincing. When you change your body language you interact differently with people around you and they, in turn, will respond differently to you.” Excerpt From: Pease, Barbara The Definitive Book of Body Language.

Adjust your body language and make the right impression by following these tips:

  1. Focus on your posture. You’ve probably heard it before but reassessing your posture is the first and most critical change that you can make. The better your posture, the more confident you will appear. When sitting and standing keep your body straight and shoulders back. Do it once in front of a mirror and you will see the difference immediately for yourself.
  2. Control your hand gestures. Take a moment to think about what you do with your hands when you’re talking with people. You may be surprised to discover that you touch your jewelry, twirl your hair or rub your beard. These small movements can imply nervousness, boredom or a variety of other awkward feelings. Avoid placing your hands on your hips as this gives an impression of superiority and not in a good way. Try to relax and keep your hands at your sides. This may seem uncomfortable at first but it actually portrays a look of ease and confidence. No.  Pointing. At. Anyone. Ever!!
  3. Don’t cross or fold your arms. So many people know that crossing your arms or putting your hands in your pockets should be avoided. So why do we keep doing it? Perhaps people feel more comfortable doing this when they don’t know what to do with their arms. However when you do this, people may view you as unapproachable, uninterested or bored. Again, try to keep your arms and hands naturally by your sides, and avoid holding them in front of your body.
  4. Keep your head straight. Tilting of the head is a natural body movement when conversing. We may nod when we agree with what is being said, we may tilt our heads to show sympathy and many people actually do this when flirting without realizing! So there is obviously a time and place when it’s okay to tilt your head, but when you want to project some level of authority, keep your head in a straight and neutral position as much as possible.
  5. Smile. Smiling is considered universally to be a signal that shows a person is happy. When used in moderation and at the appropriate moment (even when you don’t feel like it) a smile can influence other people’s attitudes and how they respond to you. Smiling is contagious, just be sure to avoid the “fake” smiles! They won’t send the right message.

Remember that body language strongly varies from culture to culture. If you are stepping out of your own comfort zone into that of another culture, be sure to prepare yourself for all the different rules of eye contact, personal space and body language.

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

Soft Skills Are The New Hard Skills

For graduates entering the professional world this autumn, soft skills are more important than ever. You may have landed the job…but can you keep it?

Here are 5 tips for young professionals preparing to take on the corporate world.

1. Know how to introduce yourself (and others). You should be able to introduce yourself and others with confidence. Prepare a brief self-introduction before an event and find out who else is attending. If you have to introduce people at a business event you need to know who they are and what they do. There is an important protocol for introductions. Be sure to shake hands with a confident grip and direct but brief eye contact as this will convey confidence and credibility.

2. Know how to dress correctly. Be appropriately dressed. Whether it is for a job interview or meeting, always be well-groomed. Your appearance speaks volumes about your character and people will judge you, so consider the image you want to portray.

3. Know how to speak. Nowadays when speaking, young professionals lean toward a more relaxed manner, probably as a result of social media. However, understanding how to communicate clearly and effectively will be fundamental in your success. Different businesses will have different expectations regarding professional and appropriate speech during meetings, presentations and even telephone conversations. It is better to err on the side of caution and be on the more formal side to start with.

4. Know how to write. Appropriate business language is not as easy as it sounds. To be professional it is essential to use correct and appropriate spelling, grammar and punctuation for most written communications. Of course how you write will be different from one social media outlet to another, just be sure to keep it appropriate – hashtags are not always necessary. For formal business communications it is better to remain business-like and use the relevant business language.

5. Know how be appropriate (wherever you are). Every communication that you have whether in the virtual world or otherwise will leave an impression. Learn how to network, how to dine and how to communicate in the style that is expected in your working environment. Remember that your online impression is equally important and sometimes even more important than your face to face impression. Pause for a moment before reaching for your phone during a meeting. You have control over your own image so be sure to control it to your advantage.

Taking the time to consider your business environment is critical. The rules of dressing and writing may vary according to industry but people will always remember people with good manners!

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

5 Tips For Doing Business In Mexico

As I am currently spending some time in Mexico, I want to share some important tips for doing business with this warm, friendly and interesting culture.

Greetings – Businessmen typically shake hands with one another and they may also pat each other on the back. Businesswomen will shake hands initially with newcomers but at a second introduction will very quickly will offer the right cheek for one kiss (to both male and female counterparts). This one kiss greeting at the start of the day and the end of the day is a daily ritual in the workplace. A visitor will quickly be included in this practice.
Concept of Time – While it is generally considerate for you to be punctual, you may have to wait for others to arrive for meetings or business meals. Timekeeping is quite fluid in Mexico and appointment times and meetings may not be strictly adhered to. Don’t take offence, just be aware that you may have to wait to get things started.
Business Style – Business dealings will proceed more slowly than some visitors are accustomed to. Foreign visitors should not attempt to change the speed of business in Mexico by trying to rush discussions or the decision-making processes. This may affect the professional relationship as impatience may be viewed as weakness.
Business Relationships – Mexico has a hierarchical and quite formal business structure, yet is warm and friendly. Relationship building is crucial in Mexican business and having a local intermediary at the correct hierarchal rank to assist with introductions will go a long way towards successful integration.
General Business Etiquette – Personal space may be closer than you are used to, but is similar to many Latin American countries. Business meals are considered important as this is the time during which relationships are built. The overall atmosphere of business and negotiations may depend on the region, with the southern regions leaning toward a more informal atmosphere while Mexico City and northern areas are slightly more reserved.

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

Wedding Gift Etiquette

We are now full swing into the wedding season and many of us are attending several weddings over the course of the summer. Sometimes the rules and expectations of gift giving are not clear cut and we can be left wondering what are some of the do's and don'ts.

Here are few of the most common questions that people frequently ask me at this time of year…

Do I have to give a gift?
Well you wouldn’t attend a birthday party empty handed so yes, you would be expected to give a gift when attending a wedding. Nowadays most couples opt for a gift registry with a store where you can select something you know the couple will like.

How much should I spend?
There is no right amount. How much you spend is strictly a matter of your budget, and how close you are to the couple. I never agree with the amounts that are written in magazines that people are expected to spend on gifts. Everyone has different incomes and therefore different budgets, and it’s unreasonable to think that everyone can afford the same. A good rule of thumb is the closer the relationship the higher the budget.

The couple asked for money and I would rather give a gift, can I ignore their request?
Nowadays many couples have been living together before the wedding and have accumulated many of the items that you would expect to see on a wedding registry. I would strongly recommend following the wishes of the couple, after all it should be about what they want.

Do I have to buy a gift from the registry?
The couple has created the registry to make the process easier for everyone. Do you really have to use it? No, it’s not set in stone but highly recommended that you do! The tradition of a wedding registry originally started because there would be distant family members invited to a wedding who didn't know the couple closely and needed some guidance. If you know the couple well then feel free to choose something different, perhaps using the registry as a guide to be sure of what they like, and don’t forget to include a gift receipt just in case. Otherwise, err on the side of caution and stick to the list.

When should I give the gift?
Ideally, not at the wedding! This is the most inconvenient time. According to older etiquette books, it was acceptable to give a wedding gift up to 12 months after the wedding! Nowadays most couples expect to have received their gifts long before their first anniversary! With so many brides having wedding websites and gift registries, there really is no excuse for waiting. Ideally send the gift a few weeks before the wedding.

I have to spend a lot on travel and accommodation to attend the wedding, can I give less as a gift?
Yes of course it’s okay to gift less but make sure that you do give something. The couple will understand that you have made the extra effort to attend the wedding.

Do I have to bring a gift to the wedding shower too?
When invited to any wedding-related event, a gift would usually be expected. I recommend that you budget before hand and stick to it. Know what you plan to spend on the couple and allocate an amount for each gift. Smaller gifts for engagement and bridal showers and a larger gift for the wedding present, or a more personal gift for the shower and a gift from the registry for the wedding would be best.

I won't be able to attend the wedding, do I still need to send a gift?
A gift would usually be expected and certainly appreciated.  You could send a gift of a lesser value if you prefer to, the couple will still be happy.

Now that you've mastered the gift giving process you can start navigating the wedding guest dilemmas!

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

Styles of Eating... American, Continental, European, British... which is correct?

I recently had the pleasure of giving a private dining etiquette session and I was asked the question “Is it better to eat using the American or Continental Style?” I have heard this question many, many times and always wonder why people think there are only two styles of eating.

There are various styles of eating throughout the world, and each style will be correct for the culture it belongs to. Everyone knows that in many countries chopsticks are used and that in other countries knives and forks are used. However, there are many variations in between. Whether it be using chopsticks, or using spoons and forks together, or using fingers only, each culture has it’s own etiquette for eating. In some cultures it is considered rude to leave food on the plate at the end of a meal, yet in others it is considered rude not to! You may consider it very rude to listen to someone making noise while they eat. Someone else reading this may consider it rude when no noise is made during eating. The variations are endless when it comes to styles of eating and manners at the table.

In the Western world where the majority of countries use a knife and fork, there are also various styles of using cutlery, including the American style, Continental style, British style and the European style, which actually has some slight variations according to country. So is there a preferred style? Is one style of eating more “correct” than the others?

Simply put…No! Each style of eating is correct. However, there are certain situations when one style of eating may not be appropriate. I encourage people to choose a style that they are comfortable with and use it daily. I also encourage people to be aware of other styles of eating and use them when necessary. For example, if you plan on travelling abroad for business, I would recommend using the Continental style of eating.  This is the style of eating which is considered a happy medium for all cultures. Consider that in Britain, when dining the hands are kept below the table during the meal when the cutlery is not being used, but in France this is considered rude, and hands should always be visible at the dining table. So if you are visiting a country for the first time and expect to be invited for dinner by an acquaintance or client, I would recommend some research beforehand. You wouldn’t want to use your knife and fork in a manner that could unwittingly cause offence.

So what is the Continental Style of Eating?

This method is considered the most “diplomatic” style of eating. It is a style of eating that is recognized internationally, particularly by business people and diplomats. It is the least likely to cause offence anywhere in the world. If you use another style of eating, or mix different styles of eating, those around you may think that you don’t know how to eat politely and will judge you.

How to eat Continental style

The main consideration is how to use the utensils. This style of eating shouldn’t be too difficult for Europeans. It is harder for Americans who switch their fork between hands throughout the meal. With continental style the fork always stays in the left hand, with the tines pointed down, and the knife is always held by the right hand. The food is then speared by the fork and brought to the mouth with the tines facing down. The cutlery never changes hands.

Of course there are other differences to be aware of when using the Continental style of dining, including cutlery placement throughout the meal and at the end of the meal but if you remember to keep your fork in your left hand and your knife in your right hand, you can’t go too far wrong.

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant

Quick Guide To Business Dining For Graduates

Maintaining a professional image is always important and dining in a business setting can be an opportunity to make a good impression. For young graduates new to the corporate world it can be daunting, but knowing the correct business dining etiquette is a silent plus on your curriculum. Here is a quick guide to getting it right:

Arrival – Be on time, or better, a little early. If you arrive first don’t go straight to the table, wait for your host. Be sure to greet everyone at the table as they arrive and try to remember names.


Ordering Food – Try to follow the lead of your host. Don’t order the most expensive item on the menu, or the cheapest. If the host doesn’t order first, ask for recommendations. Beware of tricky foods that are difficult to eat and don’t order something that you are unfamiliar with!


Alcohol – For a business lunch, alcohol should be avoided, even if the host is having a beer or glass of wine. It is perfectly acceptable to have an alcoholic drink during an evening dinner but you should limit yourself to one glass, as dancing on the table may not be your best look!


Table Manners – How you eat, hold your cutlery and even communicate with service staff, will send a message to those around you. Consider what message you want to send! Table manners vary according to cultures but the continental style of eating is considered the most acceptable manner of eating internationally and will never be wrong. Brush up on how to use your utensils, eat bread and napkin placements before you go.


Conversation & Talking Business – Your host will usually guide the conversation in the right direction. Small talk is to be expected at the start of the meal with business topics generally being introduced during the main course. During shorter business lunches the small talk may only last until the food has been ordered. Try to prepare a few conversation starters beforehand if you are nervous. Who will be attending the meal?  What are their job positions in the company? What interests might they have?  What nationalities will be present? Religion, politics and controversial subjects should always be avoided.


Paying the bill – The globally accepted rule is that the person who is hosting the dinner is the person who pays for the dinner and the tip. There is no need to offer, just be sure to thank your host!


Easy!

Julia Esteve

The Etiquette Consultant