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Basic Business Etiquette to Be Aware Of

Individuals often feel uncomfortable in business situations, as this is one topic most business schools overlook. They don’t cover proper business etiquette at times such as this, leaving a person wondering what they should say and how they should act. Until this changes, a person may wonder if they are presenting themselves properly in this setting. Fortunately, people can learn what is expected of them by doing their own research. Following are some common business situations and how one should act in each.

Business Calls

The telephone remains an essential communication tool and not simply for the ability to check emails and send texts. Speaking to someone over the phone remains the fastest, simplest and most personal way to connect with another person. However, a failure to use proper phone etiquette can have a negative impact on the outcome of the call.

Woman making a phone call and smilingRemain amiable and professional on all calls while following the rules of common courtesy. Never let a phone ring more than three times before answering to show the call is important to you. However, don’t pick up immediately either, as this can be disconcerting to the other person.

Smile when answering the phone, as this has a positive influence on your tone of voice. In addition, be sure to address the other party by name to show you value them as an individual. Talk slowly and clearly while keeping the phone approximately two inches away from the mouth to ensure you can be heard clearly and provide appropriate answers. Never use the phrase, “I don’t know”, as it’s best to reply that the matter needs to be looked into and a reply will be forthcoming. In the event the other party must be on hold, be sure to ask permission and check in regularly to let them know they haven’t been forgotten. That’s the key to business etiquette on the phone.

Business Emails

Emails today tend to be the preferred means of communication for many businesses. An email ensures all points are clearly stated in writing to avoid confusion. However, the use of email can also lead to issues that are often unforeseen.

First and foremost, make certain the subject line presents an accurate representation of the contents of the communication. Never leave this line blank or provide a generic description. Including a descriptive subject line increases the odds of the email being opened and read.

Laptop and email interfaceAlways include a salutation and a full signature. While the message is being delivered electronically, this does not mean any elements may be left out. The salutation serves as a greeting to the other person and the full signature ensures they know how to contact you in the event of a problem or if a question arises. There is no need for them to search for this information, as it is right in front of them. This will be appreciated by the recipient.

Refresh the reader’s memory regarding past communications. Don’t assume they have this information. By taking this simple step, you can avoid confusion and make certain the recipient doesn’t have to search through past communications to remember what has already been discussed.

Formal writing remains necessary in all business communications. A failure to use proper punctuation, for example, may lead the other part to believe you are lazy and careless. Nobody wants to leave others with this impression, so don’t become lenient in this area. Finally, proofread all communications before sending, as this step ensures the proper message is being delivered and the email is well crafted.

Business Letters

Business LetterTraditional business correspondence delivered via snail mail has become less popular today. However, there are times when a letter must be sent. As a result, every person in the business world must be aware of etiquette when crafting one of these documents.

First and foremost, every letter should have a purpose and this purpose needs to be clearly laid out in the communication. Remain on topic throughout the letter and ensure it is composed properly. Never make use of industry jargon either, as this may confuse the reader and lead to the intent of the letter being unclear.

Proofread the document and walk away. Take a break for a few hours and read it again to detect any readability issues, grammar issues, or misspellings. These are simply unacceptable in any formal communication also.

Finally, be sure to check the name and address on the envelope, as having internal information shared with the wrong person or business could be disastrous. Furthermore, this helps to ensure the right individual receives the letter and the message it conveys. Always take this step when postmarking the mail and again before sending to ensure no errors are present.

Meetings

One wrong move in a business meeting can be disastrous for a person’s career. It negatively reflects on their professionalism, regardless of whether they know they did anything wrong. To avoid a mistake of this type, always be aware of business meeting etiquette.

Hand shakeBe sure to use full names when introducing individuals. This information is of great help when two people try to connect at a later date. Having the other party’s last name makes it easier to locate the individual on professional networking sites such as LinkedIn.

Never fidget during a meeting and refrain from chewing gum or eating. Obviously, an exception to this is those times when a meal is being served. Otherwise, hold off on food and gum until a meal break is called.

Meetings take up a great deal of time. When participants ask numerous, lengthy questions or ask the same things again and again, it holds everyone up. Be sure to keep all questions short and to the point. When more clarification is needed, follow up with the individual at a later date via email or a private meeting.

Any time you are extending an invitation for a dinner meeting, be prepared to pay. The bill becomes the responsibility of the person who initiated the meeting, yet many seem unaware of this. Being aware of this prevents an awkward moment when the bill arrives.

Meals

Table perpared for dinnerAs mentioned above, a person who extends an invitation for a meal is expected to pay for this meal. However, this is only one of the many business meal etiquette rules one needs to remember. The key to a successful meal is to find a way to blend the social and personal aspects and many struggle with this. Following are some guidelines to help anyone navigate a meal of this type.

Be on time for the meal. While waiting for everyone to arrive, introduce yourself to any new faces and shake hands with them. Once this has been done, follow the lead of the host or hostess. They should always be the first to sit and place their napkin in their lap. Furthermore, follow their lead when ordering. Choose a meal that is similarly priced and don’t ask for any extras, such as appetizers or a dessert, unless they do.

The use of silverware during a business meal terrifies many, but it is part of a proper business etiquette. A good rule of thumb to remember is to use the silverware from the outer piece inward. For example, use the fork that is farthest left for the salad and the knife that is farthest right for the same. The knife and fork for use with dinner will be closest to the plate. Butter plates and knives are located above the forks while water and wine glasses are on the other side.

Stand to greet new arrivals, but never pull out a guest’s chair for them. This is not standard behavior for a business event. Don’t ask for detailed explanations of different dishes and cut food one or two bites at a time. Finally, avoid controversial topics and, if someone else brings them up, politely defer to the opinion of others. This helps to keep peace at the table.

Dress Etiquette

Appearance is of great importance in the business world. People often make judgments based on nothing more than how a person looks. Fortunately, a person can dress for success and influence the option of others.

Man in a suit, standing next to stairsKnow the dress code of the company and follow it. However, even if cutoff shorts and graphic tees are considered acceptable, the clothing should always be clean and fit properly. This includes the shoes which need to be neat and polished.

Reserve strong colognes and fragrances for after work occasions. If a scent is worn, ensure it is subtle. Allow others to remember you for your personality as opposed to the lingering smell you leave behind.

Accessories need to be wisely chosen, and this includes hosiery for women. Don’t wear any jewelry that makes noise when you move and avoid open toe shoes unless you have recently had a pedicure. Men need to make certain their facial hair is trimmed and tidy also.

 

A person may feel overwhelmed by the many rules and guidelines regarding business etiquette. Spend some time brushing up on this information before an event. If you are still concerned about behaving appropriately in different business settings, don’t hesitate to practice when out with friends or family. Explain what you are doing and why. Not only will this give you extra practice, they may also learn something new that will be of benefit to them. When this happens, everyone wins.

Understand the Proper Etiquette for Writing Business Letters

Business letters are not an old way of communicating that has been turned obsolete by computers. It’s still important to understand how to write business letters, whether you’re sending them through the postal service or as an e-mail. Irrespective of the method of communication, you’re going to need to know how to write a business letter and understand the rules to ensure you’re communicating effectively.

Today, business letters are still used for many types of communication. They can be sent to convey an idea, create or accept an offer, inquire about a job, request information, and more. For the most part, business letter rules are simple. The business letter should follow a standard format to ensure everything looks clean and should be free of errors.

What to Consider When Writing a Business Letter

Business LetterThe same as when making a phone call, you’ll want to have the purpose for the letter in mind at all times, when you’re preparing to write a business letter. You’ll also want to make sure you’re taking the time to compose the letter properly. For the most part, business letter writing doesn’t have to be hard, but you will want to make sure you stay on topic and avoid many of the common issues letter writers may have.

The issues you’ll want to be aware of while you’re composing a business letter include using jargon, tangents, grammar mistakes, readability issues, misspellings, and misaddressing the letter. These are all a concern, whether you’re printing the letter to send through regular mail or you’re sending it as an email.

Even if you choose to send an email, it’s important to be concise and to have everything correct in the letter to send a good impression.

Avoid Jargon

Business letter etiquette dictates that you should avoid jargon whenever possible. While you might know exactly what you’re talking about, it’s possible the person you’re writing to will not understand all of the terms you use if you use profession-specific terms in your letter.

Instead, use language the average person would be able to read and understand so your message is as clear as possible.

Avoid Tangents

A man watching on the clock

Keep your letter short, so you make sure the recipient will read all of it.

With business letter writing, it’s never a good idea to go off on a tangent. Instead, make sure you stick to the main topic of your letter and keep it as concise as possible. Today’s business professionals don’t have a lot of time to spend reading letters, so the shorter your letter is, the more likely it is they’ll read all of it.

When you add unnecessary topics to your letter, it increases the possibility the recipient will stop reading it before they fully understand the reason for your letter.

Avoid Grammar Mistakes

Most business professionals consider grammar mistakes to be unacceptable today. With computers and the ability to add a grammar checker to your email or your word processing program, it’s expected you will take the time to correct grammar issues in your letter before sending it.

Word processing programs should already have a grammar checker, and some can be downloaded to use with your emails so you can make sure everything is correct before you send the letter.

Avoid Awkward Phrases and Other Readability Issues

Your entire letter should be easy for the recipient to read. You’ll want to avoid awkward phrases or any other issues that make it more difficult to read your letter.

To make sure your letter is easy to read, go ahead and read it out loud. Your ear will pick up on awkward phrases or other issues easily, even if you don’t see them while you’re proofreading the letter.

Avoid Misspellings, Especially Names

letters

Make sure everything is spelled correctly before you send a business letter.

Spell checkers, like grammar checkers, are vital today. You should make sure everything is spelled correctly before you send the letter. Additionally, letter etiquette dictates you should make sure the recipient’s name is spelled correctly.

Avoid Misaddressing the Letter

While you’re checking the spelling of the recipient’s name, go ahead and check the address for the letter as well. With email and postal service, an incorrect address means the letter will not get to the recipient and they will not get the chance to read it. Always check the address carefully to ensure everything is correct before sending.

 

Though writing a business letter doesn’t have to be hard, there are rules you need to follow to ensure your letter is well received and understood by the recipient. Keep the aforementioned business letter rules in mind whenever you’re writing a letter.

This will help you improve your letter writing ability and help you ensure the recipient understands what you’re saying in your letter.

Laptop and email interface

Etiquette Basics for Business Emails

Five years ago, analysts with technology research firm, The Radicati Group, Inc. predicted more than 130 billion business emails would be sent and received each day by the end of last year. Current figures indicate we’ve met those expectations in full force. This form of communication has not only inundated the business world but transformed it. In light of this development, understanding proper business email etiquette is the key to conveying professionalism and authority in today’s online landscape.

Building a Winning Email Strategy

Email has certainly become the norm these days, leaving some a bit lax on the finer points of the game. As a result, many formal emails fall short of delivering on their intended purposes. To carry a professional image, business etiquette dictates certain elements should be included.

  • Straightforward Subject Line: Subject lines are our first, and possibly our only, opportunities to grab recipients’ attention and convince them reading further is worth their time. These shouldn’t, under any circumstances, be left blank. Of course, a vague generic description, like “read this now” reeks of spam and could be equally ineffective. Be direct and concise regarding the email’s contents, such as “End-of-Year Marketing Report Attached”. Specificity greatly increases the chances of an email being opened and read through.
  • Appropriate Salutation: Salutations are also crucial components of business etiquette. Openings like “Dear”, “Good Day”, “Greetings”, “Hello” and “Hi” all serve nicely in a professional environment. These should be followed by the recipient’s name. While “To Whom It May Concern” and “Dear Sir or Madame” once ruled the world of formal salutations, they’re both considered somewhat off-putting in the modern-day sense.
  • Writing a business emailFull Signature: Be sure to add your signature to business emails as well. Though these shouldn’t drone on beyond five or six lines, they should definitely contain your name, email, company designation and phone number. All these give recipients ample ways of contacting you directly in the email, so they don’t have to spend extra time looking up your information elsewhere.
  • Be Thorough: Regardless of how many past exchanges you’ve had with a recipient, it’s important to provide details. Compose each email as if it were the first communication between the two of you, briefly but fully covering the subject at hand. This helps avoid confusion and prevents recipients from having to scroll through previous conversations to remind themselves of what you’re talking about.
  • Follow the Rules of Writing: Though the world has become fairly lenient when it comes to the ins and outs of written communication, business email etiquette places great emphasis on them. Write in complete sentences with proper punctuation and capitalization in all the right places; otherwise, you’ll appear sloppy or even uneducated in the eyes of others.

After all is said and done, be sure to proofread before sending. Walk away for a few minutes and come back to it, so you’ll read what you wrote rather than what you meant to say. With all these elements in place and careful attention to detail, you’ll build a well-crafted formal email strategy sure to draw the attention of coworkers, clients and prospects.

What to Avoid in Business Emails

Just as certain components should be part of your winning email approach, some things should be left out of the mix. Allowing anger or frustration to sway your good judgement could be considered the most vital point on this end of the spectrum. Other factors to sidestep include:

  • Sharing Private Info on Group Emails: This may seem like common sense, but it’s easy to forget who and what are involved in a hasty moment. Never share private contact information or files in group chats unless you have explicit permission. Doing so compromises security and trust, and it could get you into quite a bit of legal trouble if the breached individual decides to take the situation that far.
  • Five guys jumping in the air

    Humour is suitable for the working atmosphere, but not in a professional email.

    Using Humor: Humor is a wonderful gift when used in face-to-face exchanges, but it tends to lose something in digital translation. Statements that might be hilarious in person could be taken as outright offensive via email, so just don’t make the attempt. It’s better to come off bland than boorish.

  • Inserting Informal Features: Casual acronyms certainly have their places, and emoticons are capable of brightening people’s days, but there’s no room for them in business emails. Smiley faces, LOLs, excessive exclamation points and other non-essentials tend to detract from professionalism, so leave them out of the mix.

Last but not least, don’t leave an email sitting in your inbox unless it’s the definitive end of a conversation. If a recipient took the time to read an email from you and respond to it, return the courtesy.

Professionalism is vital when it comes to online correspondence where facial expressions, vocal indications and other communication tools don’t apply. Follow these rules of email etiquette, and you’ll be all set to impress. Attention to detail takes a little extra time and effort, but it pays off in the grand scheme of things.

smart contract

Useful Etiquette Rules For Business Meetings

Many assume that proper etiquette is all about sending thank-you notes, using the right fork at mealtime and dressing appropriately. However, where the professional world is concerned, a person’s behavior and planning processes speak to their professionalism, and the smallest misstep can damage one’s career. Below are several business meeting etiquette rules to know and abide by.

Use Full Names During Pre-Meeting Introductions

Many people have difficulty associating names with faces, especially in the conference- and convention-filled business world where introductions are a daily occurrence. During business meetings, it’s important to use full names when making introductions. When clients know a person’s last name, it’s easier for them to make connections on LinkedIn and other professional-oriented social media sites.

Don’t Fidget

It’s natural to become a bit uncomfortable when sitting through a long meeting. However, crossing and uncrossing one’s legs can be distracting. Rather than fidgeting and shifting in a seat, meeting attendees should find a comfortable position and stick with it as long as possible.

Refrain From Eating or Chewing Gum

Every office worker has dealt with the smell of someone else’s food, which can make it hard to concentrate during a long meeting. Unless a business meeting is to be held over the course of a meal, attendees should avoid eating during that time.

Keep Questions Short and to the Point

Business meetings are the perfect time to bring up concerns and questions, and when the right people are there, good answers are more likely. However, if one’s inquiries have made the meeting run late, they’re wasting everyone’s time. Try to save important questions for the meeting and, if necessary, follow up with a post-meeting email.

At Dinner Meetings, the One Who Invites, Pays

No one likes the awkward process of splitting a dinner check, especially when answers come simply. If one invites colleagues or clients to a meeting, they pay for the meal. Regardless of whether it’s a coffee meeting or a full business dinner, the one who does the inviting pays the tab.

Use Email and Chat Functions Wisely

As risky as the function can be, it’s a useful way to relay important information before or after a meeting. For instance, let’s say that a colleague sends a group email asking for pre-meeting details. If one responds to only the original sender, everyone else is left unaware. Conversely, having one’s email inbox filled with useless, irrelevant group emails can be quite annoying. If details are sensitive or specific, be sure to remove those who don’t need such information. You should also follow certain rules on the telephone to ensure professional communication.

Keep Thank-Yous to a Minimum

While showing one’s appreciation is acceptable, excessive gratitude can seem insincere. At the close of a business meeting, one sincere, confident “thanks”, along with a firm handshake, is sufficient.

In Closing

In the business world, politeness and professionalism are about more than dotting I’s and crossing T’s. Proper business meeting etiquette, along with solid planning, can help make meetings more successful. If professionals follow these rules, they will find it easier to get ahead in their careers.

Business Dress Etiquette

As much as everyone tries not to make judgments based on appearances, the way a person looks plays a crucial role in their business success. In the business world, appearance is often conflated with performance, and those who don’t fit the norm aren’t always accepted. In the workplaces of today, where ‘casual Friday’ has extended to the entire week, it’s hard to understand business dress rules. Below are a few basic dress etiquette rules to follow.

Understand What’s Acceptable for the Industry

Every office’s dress code is different, and to be successful, one must follow along. For instance, in a casual office, one may be allowed to wear shorts, but cutoff jeans may be forbidden. If the company has an explicitly stated business dress code, workers should follow it.

Wear Well-Fitting, Office-Appropriate Clothes

If a person’s clothes are too small or too big, they simply won’t look good. Ensuring proper fit applies to everything a person wears, including accessories, clothing, and shoes. Women should avoid excessively short hemlines, stiletto heels, deep necklines, and exposed undergarments. Men should make sure their ties, coat sleeves, and pants are of the proper length, and they should be sure to wear a belt to keep things where they should be. After all, in the business world, it’s better for one to be remembered for what they said rather than what they wore.

Avoid Strong Fragrances

Not only are strong fragrances distracting, they can cause asthmatic and allergic reactions in sensitive individuals. Anything that someone else can smell isn’t good. To determine whether a particular scent is too strong, one should ask a trusted friend or colleague for advice.

Wear Neat, Polished Shoes

Bosses and recruiters often say that the first thing they notice about a candidate or employee is their shoes. It’s important to keep them polished and in great shape, and women should avoid wearing excessively tall heels in the workplace.

Use Hosiery Wisely

While many women still prefer a bare-legged look, pantyhose have become stylish once more. They give the wearer a more polished, professional look. For men, it’s important not to show any skin when legs are crossed and pants lift up slightly. Prevent these problems by wearing socks of the correct length.

Get a Pedicure

One of the biggest distractions in the office occurs when women wear open-toed dress shoes without getting a pedicure. If one decides to show their toes, those toes should be well-groomed and clean.

Use Accessories Wisely

A person’s accessories are meant to add to their outfit, not overwhelm it. It’s very distracting when someone’s jewelry makes noise when they move, and other pieces, such as watches, should be understated.

Keep Facial Hair Groomed

Regardless of how much a man wants a full beard, it may not work in the office setting. Embarrassing situations could arise, e. g. when eating. Men should think of grooming their beards in the same way they would think of a haircut; not every look works for everyone. Start by determining one’s facial features and shape, and find others with facial hair and similar features. Finally, experiment with cuts and styles until an office-friendly choice is found.

If a man decides to grow a beard or mustache, he should do so over a long weekend or a vacation. That way, the growth will look intentional, rather than giving the impression that one simply hasn’t shaved. Facial hair should be kept neat and tidy for a professional appearance. Scissors are useful for trimming a mustache, while electric razors are great for trimmed, short beards.

Wear Richer Colors to Convey Confidence and Authority

Professionals should pay careful attention to their color choices; darker colors often make a stronger and more memorable impression than lighter hues. If one is giving a speech or presentation, they should ensure the colors they choose don’t blend in with the backdrop against which they are standing.  However, it’s important to be careful with brighter shades. When a person’s clothes are too flashy, they may distract other workers.

Other Dress Tips

Office workers should remember that a business dress code isn’t always synonymous with good style. Adding patterns and colors to one’s work wardrobe is an easy, fun way to exhibit one’s personality while retaining a professional look. Investing in staples such as reversible belts and wrinkle-free clothing can make dressing for work easy and effortless. No matter what one wears to work, it should be pressed, clean, conservative, and stain-free.

In Conclusion

Dressing for corporate success is not just about looking nice. The way a person dresses can have positive or negative effects on how a person is perceived in the professional setting. By following these tips, one can present a polished image that makes them look more credible.

a business telephone

Proper Business Call Etiquette: Saving Face Over the Phone

Following its invention during the late 1800s, the telephone became an integral component in business operations. Despite all the technological advancements brought about since that time, the phone still holds its own in the business world. Voice-to-voice communication is – such as face-to-face communication – just faster, simpler, and more personable than the alternatives in some cases. Using proper telephone etiquette, though, could make a world of difference in the outcome of a business call.

Send the Right Message

Business calls require a balance of professionalism, amiability, and common courtesy. Finding such a balance isn’t always easy, but it’s essential. As a general rule, the phone shouldn’t ring more than three times before being answered or the person on the other end of the line may feel the call isn’t as important to you as it is to him or her. At the same time, picking up immediately has a way of catching a caller off guard. From there, attitude and technique are everything.

  • Smile before Answeringsmiling woman on the phone

    Though the person to whom you’re speaking can’t see you during a traditional call, he or she can usually sense your disposition. Whether your heart is in the smile or not, it’ll change the tone of your voice to a more pleasant one.

  • Names are Important

    We’re all individuals, and we like to be treated as such rather than just another sale or business opportunity. If the caller or callee doesn’t offer an introduction during initial contact, ask for a name. Remembering this identity for future reference is equally critical.

  • Use Your Voice

    Speak clearly and somewhat slowly while holding the phone approximately two inches from your mouth. Any farther away would leave the other person straining to hear you whereas holding the phone closer tends to make voices more garbled. Speed-talking is equally counterproductive.

  • Give Appropriate Answers

    In the midst of a business call, the phrase “I don’t know” shouldn’t be part of your vocabulary. It’s unprofessional and off-putting to the person on the other side of the conversation. If you don’t have an answer, say something to the effect of “Let me look into it” or “I’ll check on that.

  • Avoid Lengthy Holding Patterns

    No one likes to be put on hold during a call, but it’s sometimes unavoidable. Should it become necessary, be sure to ask if it’s okay with the other person. If you expect to be otherwise engaged for a considerable amount of time, it’s better to ask for a phone number and call back the other person later. In the event you realize mid-hold you’ll be held up longer than anticipated, check back in to let your conversation partner know you’ve not forgotten about him or her and follow callback protocol.

  • Break the Vicious Cycle

    Getting the runaround on the phone may very well be the most irritating aspect of calling. Never transfer someone without a courteous explanation, do your best to ensure you’re transferring to the appropriate party, and always be sure the person you’re transferring to is available for conversation.

  • Politeness is Essentialman on the phone

    Always be polite to the person to whom you’re speaking even if he or she isn’t returning the favor. Choose your words carefully. You’ll inevitably run across people who take everything you say as an insult but do your best to keep things on a diplomatic level.

  • Conclusions are Crucial

    End every call with a pleasantry, such as “thank you for your call” or “have a great day.” Don’t hang up until you’re sure the other person has nothing else to say.

As an added hint, keep your purpose in mind. Business is increasingly making its way into the home, and that can be a precarious scenario on occasion. Helping the kids with their homework or yelling at the dog and cat to stop fighting during this type of call isn’t exactly conducive to a business environment. If necessary, find a quiet room away from commotion and distractions to conduct phone calls.

At times, doing business over the phone can be easier and more productive than communicating via text or email. It also brings a more personal touch to an increasingly digital world. Though the benefits of vocal interaction are many, lacking proper phone etiquette could hamper productivity.

Covered table for a business dinner

Business Dinner Etiquette: The Dos and Don’ts of Dining with Colleagues

Business dinners are ideal means of interacting with associates outside the office environment. Though plenty of opportunity for showing off a well-balanced blend of professional and social skills awaits in such a setting, lacking in either could result in disaster. No doubt your business sense can hold its own, but understanding the conventional dos and don’ts of business dinner etiquette could make all the difference. If you keep these things in mind, you will be able to successfully conclude your business dealings.

First Things First

Entrances tend to set the stage for the entire event. Although a number of people prefer to blend quietly into their surroundings rather than make themselves known, the first order of business is to shake hands with everyone at the table. Introduce yourself to those whose acquaintances you’ve not yet made. From there, the next few elements are largely a matter of watching the host or hostess.

  • Don’t sit until the host or hostess has been seated.
  • Napkins should be placed on your lap but only after the host or hostess has done the same.
  • Discreetly try to overhear his or her order, and choose something similarly priced for yourself. Alternatively, ask the host or hostess for recommendations.
  • Along those same lines, don’t order an appetizer, cocktails, and dessert if your host asks for nothing more than iced tea and a hearty salad.

Simple, polite greetings, introductions, and following the host or hostess’ lead should get you through the first portion of the experience nicely. Having said that, quite a few other rules apply in a scenario like this.

Pay Attention to What’s in Front of You

place setting on a dinner tableDinner at home isn’t generally a formal affair. A plate, spoon, fork, napkin, and drink are all you need to achieve dining success. When in an upscale establishment, though, a few extra pieces work their way into the puzzle and can cause considerable confusion. In general, formal place settings include, from left to right:

  • Salad Fork
  • Dinner Fork
  • Dinner Plate
  • Dinner Knife
  • Salad Knife
  • Soup Spoon

Bread plates and butter knives appear on the left above the forks, and water and wine glasses sit to the right above the knives and spoon. If there are a spoon and fork above your plate, they’re reserved for dessert.

Remembering which piece of flatware serves what purpose can be tricky, but you basically start from the outside edges for salads and appetizers. Work your way inward for the main course. Keep the bread plate and glasses in their respective places to cut down on mix-ups with those seated next to you.

Moving Further along

Since the host or hostess can’t be your guiding light for the duration of the event, having your own level of savvy goes a long way toward making a great impression. This is where the matter gets a bit more involved.

  • Should others arrive at the table after you’ve been seated, stand to greet them.
  • Don’t pull out guests’ chairs for them. This is a nice gesture on a dinner date, but it’s not the norm in a business setting.
  • While asking the server a few questions regarding the menu is acceptable, requesting long explanations about several of the available options leaves everyone at the table waiting and has been known to generate animosity among dinner acquaintances and waitstaff alike.
  • Break off bite-size pieces of bread and butter each individually.bread on a small plate
  • Cut one or two bites of food at a time rather than carving up an entire steak or chicken cutlet in a single session. Cutting salad and pasta into manageable bites helps foster politeness as well.
  • When talking with others around the table, place silverware on your plate rather than slinging it around. Also be sure to swallow the food in your mouth before speaking.
  • Should conversation turn to religion, politics, or other potentially heated topics, politely opt out of the discussion or offer a brief, neutral response if addressed directly.
  • If a sneeze or cough arises during the meal, turn toward your left shoulder and block it with your left hand. Keep in mind, napkins and tissues aren’t interchangeable during a business dinner.
  • In the event you need to excuse yourself from the table for a moment, there’s no need to provide an explanation. Simply place your napkin on your seat and push it under the table.
  • Avoid asking for a take-home box if you don’t finish your food.
  • Convention dictates the host or hostess is responsible for both the check and the tip, so don’t argue when time to pay comes around.
  • Be sure to thank your host or hostess for the meal.

You have ample personal and professional knowledge to bring to the table. Combining these attributes with proper business dinner etiquette is the key to successfully interacting with colleagues in a slightly more personal setting. Keep these aspects in mind during your next business dinner, and you’re bound to make a good impression.