I entered the dining room with two goals in mind: polish manners I already have and network with the company ambassador at my table. Throughout the etiquette dinner, I realized that I was nowhere near the eating standards of a business professional as well as terribly shy about meeting new people. At the end of the evening, I walked away knowing I had to improve not only my eating manners but also my conversational skills.
The core lesson of the etiquette dinner was simply to develop one’s table manners so that they were suitable for business functions. While I never found myself to be a messy eater, there were many small, but noticeable, mistakes I kept making. Issues such as taking small bites, putting utensils down after a couple of bites, and leaving food on the plate had never crossed my mind. The message I was sending: “I’m just here for my free meal.” Not exactly something I want to convey.
The way I eat naturally stems from how I was raised at home – and I was taught proper manners – but I can see now how some of the things I learned, such as “finish your plate,” may only be appropriate for home. At the same time, there were some rules I thought were a little over the top. In general, however, the rules of etiquette were very plainly set in place to allow for better conversation and to convey cleanliness and propriety.
Dinner Etiquette Tips
A few uncommonly known etiquette rules that make a difference:
- Before the meal comes, have the napkin already ready on your lap.
- Instead of dipping your whole slice of bread in oil, rip off a chunk instead, and dip that.
- A bite should never be so big that it fills your whole mouth – take small bites, and chew thoughtfully.
- Whether you eat Continental Style or American Style, learn the difference between the “resting position” of your cutlery and the “finished position.”
- For the first course, start with the utensils farthest away from the plate, and end the meal with the ones closest.
I am not as confident as I thought I was when it comes to networking with business people. It is so important to make these connections and build relationships with recruiters, coworkers, and higher ups in order to move forward in the business world, and yet I had a lot of trouble this evening speaking more than a peep to a company representative at my table.
I did not seize the opportunity to sit next to him nor did I talk to him enough to even tell him my major. I only gave my name from across the table. As I watched him converse with another student, though, I saw that he was not an intimidating fellow. He was just chatting comfortably with the student. It made me feel better to remember that this business representative was still just a person here to practice dinner etiquette too. I plan to recall on this time in the future to help settle my nerves when meeting someone with whom I want to make a connection.
Angela Coquis is a junior at the University of Texas at Dallas. She is majoring in Management Information Systems and wants to live abroad and pursue a career in database management. She enjoys Virtual Campus and her dream job is owning a bakery.