“Business etiquette is a lost art,” says Josephine Nicholas, PR agent with Insert Catchy Headlines, and a certified business protocol and etiquette instructor based in Ann Arbor, Mich. “All the business buzzwords flying around like the birds in the spring cannot make up for a lack of tact, professionalism, and consideration.”
“How many business-networking events have we all been to where you had a business card shoved in your face, 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 their workout or numerous other faux pas? Gone are the days of common courtesy in a business forum, and ushered in are the days of an in-your-face type of carelessness about behavior, style and interaction,” Nicholas says.
Nicholas is on a mission in her city and across the nation to bring the balance to a business world caught up in itself, and to do so with class.
“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 like the wallflower at the prom, and introducing her to the right people in the room,” Nicholas says.
“How many of us have attended business ‘networking’ events where we have been subjected to unprofessional behavior—from individuals too busy filling their plates to even shake your hand to those dressed as if they just came from the gym.”
Nicholas believes that a possible reason for the lack of etiquette is that people often believe they need to act a certain way to be accepted. For instance, some feel that running a seminar on a social media dressed as if they didn’t care about their appearance and telling obnoxious jokes will gain them friends in the ‘cool circle.’ However, she says that just the opposite is true. “The same seminar should be conducted in a manner that shows respect for the audience. Focusing on the subject matter and paying close attention to listeners’ questions are some of the keys to gaining the respect of those around you.”
Nicholas offers five key points of business etiquette:
Distinguish Oneself: Implementing proper etiquette in business situations will allow people to stand out and be positively noticed. First off, be punctual to events and meetings—this will show respect for colleagues and coworkers. When doing an introduction to someone, begin with a firm handshake (avoid the dead fish handshake) and a smile. Engage in meaningful discussions. Listen to the other person, try not to interrupt and, as always, think before speaking.
Develop and Maintain Business Contacts: Proper business etiquette is necessary to develop and maintain business contacts. Business- networking events are great way to make business connections. The Internet is another wonderful tool that can be used to network. Sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn can offer more exposure to business professionals. To help maintain business acquaintances, don’t forget to keep in contact with old and new associates by e-mail, phone and even old-fashioned face-to-face meetings. It helps to interact personally with others through social-media networks; this gives business contacts a human element–but stay classy while doing so.
Project a Positive Image: Proper usage of business etiquette is vital to projecting a positive image. First impressions are often the longest lasting. To make a good first impression, always dress appropriately. It will not be appreciated if people show up to a networking event dressed as if they just left the gym. Dress to impress, but don’t draw undue attention. Nonverbal communication is another key element to projecting a positive image. Use nonverbal communication to an advantage. Avoid negative communication—folding of the arms and sighing shows disinterest and boredom. Making eye contact is a positive form of nonverbal communication; it shows interest and esteem for associates and their viewpoints. When at an event, concentrate more on the people than the food.
Project Confidence and Authority: In order to succeed in the business world, it is necessary to project confidence and authority. Begin by knowing the subject—if people don’t understand the material at hand, they will be unable to discuss it or instruct others. Always research a person and his or company before a meeting/conversation. Learn the art of small talk. Never underestimate the power of hard work; a position of authority requires determination and diligence. However, a leader must also be able to delegate effectively. While being an example for a work ethic, people should not overburden themselves by doing the work of others.
Build Teamwork: Teamwork is essential to almost all business situations. A key element to proper business etiquette in teamwork is communicating effectively. Ensure that all team members understand the tasks at hand and also their personal responsibilities. This will help to decrease miscommunications and confusion—allowing the job to be accomplished quickly and efficiently. Be sure to bring good ideas to team meetings and also to listen carefully and openly to the ideas of others. Finally, help teammates who are struggling with their responsibilities. Going above and beyond will guarantee success for the team as a whole.
For more information, visit Nicholas’s blog at http://josephinenicholas.wordpress.com/