The Lost Art of Business Etiquette by Josephine Nicolas

In these unprecedented economic times and our rapidly expanding global economy, executives on all levels need to distinguish themselves from the competition. How many business networking events have we all been to where you’ve had a business card simply shoved at you, or an individual not shaking your hand due to the ever present “too much food and drink in my hands” syndrome, or an individual there who looks like they just came from a workout, or numerous other mistakes? Gone are the days of common courtesy in a business forum, replaced by an in-your-face type of carelessness about behavior, style, and interaction.

Calling Card

The courtesy and class that used to be prevalent in the working world has dwindled. In short, business etiquette is a lost art. All of the business buzzwords flying around like autumn leaves in November cannot make up for a lack of tact, professionalism, and consideration. Balance needs to be implemented in a business world that is so caught up in itself.

Networking isn’t about the food, how many cards you pass out, or even how many people you meet. It’s about you going up to the woman in the corner who is standing there like the wallflower at the prom, and introducing her to the right people in the room. Conducting a seminar on social media dressed as if you didn’t care about your appearance and telling obnoxious jokes isn’t going to gain you new friends in the “cool circle,” but conducting one looking like you respect yourself and your audience, nailing the subject matter on the head, and paying close attention to the questions from the audience are the things that will earn you a seat at the table.

Why is there a common rejection of proper business etiquette? When class and professionalism position you to distinguish yourself, develop and maintain business and connections, project a positive image, and build teamwork, why would you act in any other way? Bringing proper protocol back into your world will not only contribute to your personal standing, but to the landscape of the business world as a whole.

According to research conducted by Harvard University, the Carnegie Foundation, and the Stanford Research Institute, 85% of your job success is connected to your people skills. While our lives get hectic and busy and it may seem more productive to breeze through a conversation and adhere to the tasks at hand, try to step up your class. Engage in the conversation, focus on the other person, don’t interrupt, and think before you speak. These are the proper elements involved in a professional business conversation.

Proper training on how to best conduct yourself in business settings can increase your bottom line and position in the market. Implement the following four things and watch business associates, clients, and others flock to you like bees to honey: 

Make an Entrance and Work the Room

What, really, is charisma? Who are the ones in a room we are normally most drawn to speak with? The humble people — those who exude confidence and authority are qualities you will see others want to be around. Without that perfect mix, someone could be a bit annoying, so make sure when you walk into a room you have all of them threaded into your behavior. Generally, when you make your entrance, it is best to find and go directly to the host and thank them for holding the event; it makes the best impression and is the right thing to do. Make eye contact and smile as you walk through the room, so you don’t look lost. 

Use the Proper Handshake

Don’t you hate the fish handshake? That weak, wet shake, that always makes you feel like you are in a shady place? Shaking hands solidifies someone’s first impression of you. Remember to shake web to web, with your thumb up and fingers out. Also, for women — in a professional setting, stand up and shake a man’s hand. In social settings, this is normally frowned upon, but in a business setting, it is most professional and shows more confidence and stature. Additionally, if wearing a name badge, make sure it’s placed on your right side; we normally shake with our right hands, and that is where your eyes go when greeting someone. 

Introduce Yourself and Others with Ease

Have you briefed yourself on the people in the room? Do you know who’s here and why? Doing a little research prior to any event is a great way to be well- informed on the crowd. This gives you the ability to introduce yourself to the right people, and have a little something about them in your back pocket to discuss. Everyone likes to talk about their latest accomplishment, award, or effort. Further; make sure you introduce at least one person who may need an introduction to another in the room. Even if this introduction provides zero value to you and your business, you’ll be considered a professional, classy person who is looking out for others, making them feel at ease.

Make the Most of Business Meals

When you extend an invitation, find out the guests’ likes and dislikes. Ask what type of food they enjoy. Make sure you state the purpose of your invitation. Be precise about the time and place and who is covering the bill. There’s nothing like the awkward moment when the bill is presented after a meal, and neither party really knows who is paying or if each one is picking up their own bill. Also, confirm with your guest the day before the meal that they are still coming. Make sure you call ahead, pick the proper place in the restaurant where you want to sit, and have a table reserved. After the meal, send a handwritten thank-you note for their time and conversation. 

Improve Your Mingling Proficiency

Walk into a room with an agenda. Know your purpose and who you want to connect with. Be sure not to make an event about the food; eat before you arrive if you have to. It is a major faux pas to have both hands full; make sure you always have one free to shake someone’s hand. Brief yourself on current events and make sure you are skilled with small talk; it breaks the ice and establishes an immediate connection you can’t otherwise gain when someone thinks all you want to do is hand them your business card. Small talk also doesn’t require original or profound conversation. Further, learn to politely close a conversation, and ease your way into another. 

Learn Proper Dining Etiquette

Have you ever been at a business-meal meeting and faced confusion over which piece of silverware to use at a given point? Make sure you learn the best way to dine with style and grace so that you walk away feeling as if you have been accustomed to dining with royalty your whole life. Remember to hold your fork and knife properly. Always place your napkin on your lap, folded in the middle, with the open side facing the table. Wipe your mouth only with the inside of the napkin. Additionally, follow your host with regard to the speed of eating. Many job interviews are even being done over a meal, as a person’s behavior in this setting can be a large embarrassment to a company.

Always keep in mind that when you have proper etiquette and protocol intelligence — the ability to think, learn, and apply etiquette and protocol skills, especially when this ability is highly developed — you will make a better impression, feel better about yourself, and close more deals.


Josephine Nicolas is a professional speaker, writer, and entrepreneur. Her PR Agency, Insert Catchy Headlines, specializes in obtaining local and national media exposure for clients. She can be contacted at

Image courtesy of MichaelSampson.Net

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