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Dinner Teaches Etiquette, Social Cues, and Professional Development Tips

Bread is always to your left, drink to your right and once you take a piece of silverware (even the knife to butter your bread) off the table, it must never go back on the table.

Over 250 students, faculty and staff learned these tips and many more at Tuesday night’s Spring 2017 Etiquette Dinner in the Mandela Room, hosted by the Fleishman Center for Career and Professional Development. Attendees enjoyed a free three course meal during the two hour event, while engaging with seven of their peers and a staff or faculty host at each table.

Barbara LangFounder of B. Lang Consulting and former career advisor, Barbara Lang taught attendees how to be comfortable in any type of event so they can convey their best selves. For her, etiquette is what is expected of you and how you respect, acknowledge and appreciate other people.

“Your behavior at the table is a projection of your behavior at work,” Lang said. “Always try to find little micromoments where you can connect with others and be aware of the people around you. Show courtesy because people are always looking.”

She taught that emotional and social intelligence, along with how you make someone feel, will differentiate you in both the social and professional world. She stressed that creating a legacy starts with a first impression and smiling goes very far. Students were instructed to “read the air” and be mindful of the people around them in different environments.

In between her advice on social intelligence and awareness, she also taught dining etiquette for any type of food-related event. She said if you leave the table, fold your napkin and place it on the table next to your plate, not your chair. Silverware should be used from the outermost in and you should never begin eating until everyone has their food. If something, like a dessert tray or bread basket, is closest to you, offer the person on your left, then take for yourself and pass it to your right. Remember that the more important the event, the smaller the pieces of food and if you have dietary needs, be sure to alert the host of the event beforehand.

Senior computer engineering major Siaki Tatteh-Nartey said she thought the event was really well-put together and she got more than she expected out of attending.

“It didn’t just emphasize the traditional aspect of what you would expect from its title, such as when to use each utensil, but also allowed students to reflect on how we brand ourselves,” Tatteh-Nartey said. “It was good to practice, especially being at a table full of strangers and learning to actively have a conversation while still networking.”

Lang offered important networking advice, too. At the table, she said to ask questions relevant to you so you can learn from others and form commonalities. Lang reminded the attendees that if you can’t eat because you’re busy talking, then you’re probably talking too much.

“If you can’t tell a moment-in-time story about every line of your resume, then you have to change it or dig deeper,” Lang said. “This is your chance to highlight something that’s not generic.”

Lang’s culminating piece of advice: if you think about the needs of others and are courteous to the people you’re with during life’s small moments, when your “big ticket moment” comes, etiquette will already be a natural part of who you are.

Spring 2017 Etiquette Dinner