- A basic primer for business social skills
- First and last impressions and everything in between
- Tips from a protocol and etiquette expert
Does that sound like something your mother used to bark as you were heading out the door on your way to have dinner at a friend’s house? Well guess what? Now that you’re all grown up and have joined the professional work force, your boss wants to shout the same thing to you every time the company sends you out in the world to conduct company business. Why?
Do respect the clock. Arrive on time, or better yet with a few minutes to spare. Impressions start even before introductions.
Dress for success. Yes, an overused term but one you should pay attention to, especially if you’re not sure what to wear. Always best to go for a more conservative and professional look than flashy or showy, both of which should be left to the dance floor.
Have a brief and meaningful self-introduction that you deliver with pride and confidence along with your business card and a firm handshake. Nothing says “I have no idea who I am or why I’m here” faster than the opposite of this scenario which you hope never to be guilty of, right?
Don’t take the lead unless you are truly the leader. There will be clear times when you are given the responsibility of leadership and times when you’re a team member. Know the difference and act accordingly. Among other things, leaders start conversations, pay taxi and meal tabs, make group introductions, and know what to order (a simple salad and steak/chicken) and what to avoid (BBQ ribs!). If these tasks are not in your wheelhouse, step back and follow the professionals.
Take social media seriously. That means stop posting all those silly pictures and comments that are meaningless and only funny to you (and possibly your college drinking buddies) for the world to view and pass judgment. Don’t use your camera incessantly for social media posts. Stop talking loud on your cell phone while in public for all to hear. Don’t spend all day at your desk checking personal emails and social media hits unless those tasks are included in your job description. And, in case you haven’t heard, emails sent via your office computers can all be used as evidence in a court of law. Write maturely.
Drink responsibly. This shouldn’t take any further explanation, but for some it does, so here goes: if you are out with clients and/or other business associates, be the leader and know when to stop. If you are being hosted at a meal function, wait to see what alcohol (if any) the host orders or offers; if you are the host, make your guests comfortable by suggesting a wine or cocktail (if appropriate) to set the tone.
Eat sensibly and know your limits. Just because you are on company money doesn’t mean you have permission to order the most expensive items offered. And it shouldn’t matter whether it’s your company paying or someone else, in order to stay in an appropriate comfort zone, always be mindful of what others at your table are drinking and eating and follow suit.
Organize yourself and your presentation materials before heading out in the world. And in case you’re wondering, your college backpack should be left behind; in the real world a professional portfolio, tote, or briefcase is your new backpack.
Understand the politics of seating arrangements. If you are the first to arrive at a restaurant or meeting, wait to be seated. Know where the power seats are and leave those to the leaders or hosts. If you are the visitor in a client’s office, stand until you are instructed to be seated.
Know how to make a professional phone call and also how to leave an appropriate message. Pay attention to your voice, cadence, diction, duration (no more than 30 seconds, please), and whatever details need to be left on the message.