Is business etiquette dead? We don’t think so and neither does Nikki Heald, the Managing Director of Corptraining, who says a strong brand is integral to personal success in business. Stumbling over etiquette can undermine even the best business proposition.
Read Nikki’s 10 tips for navigating the subtle terrain of business etiquette below.
10 business etiquette tips you need to know in 2014
By Nikki Heald, MD of Corptraining
1. First Impressions
We never get a second chance to create a great first impression, so it’s imperative we get it right, every time. In a competitive market, positive first impressions communicate and reinforce personal and professional branding. Initially, we respond to the visual and those first few seconds may be critical to a sale or business development.
2. Personal image
Your personal packaging speaks volumes. Consider the image you and/or your employee’s project. Does it convey credibility and professionalism at all levels? Is it in line with your brand values? Appropriate business attire supports your role and meets client expectations. Ensure you always dress for success.
Your handshake is so much more than just a greeting. It can make or break first impressions. A handshake that’s too limp (wet-fish) can convey weakness or lack of self-confidence, while one that’s too strong (bone-cruncher) can convey hostility. A well-executed handshake conveys self-confidence and a genuine interest in the other person.
The less prominent person is introduced to the more prominent. To determine prominence consider age and position, rather than gender, and use that person’s name first in the introduction. If seated when introduced, it is always good manners to stand.
5. Business cards
Ensure you carry sufficient, professional-looking business cards. Business cards are part of your extended image and should be pristine. If yours are dog-eared, smudged or scribbled on, toss them out as they can undermine your personal brand. At business meetings, cards are exchanged immediately after introductions.
6. Client entertainment
Be aware of correct dining etiquette and how to navigate your tableware. You should know what to do with your napkin, glasses and cutlery. Be mindful of how to seat guests, serve wine, and make conversation. Never talk with food in your mouth, pick your teeth or use your napkin to blow your nose.
7. Art of small talk
At business events, making small talk isn’t always easy although it’s a great way to build a connection. Initial conversation topics should be kept light and interesting, so prepare three generic questions to use. Avoid discussing religion, politics, immigration policies or medical conditions until you know the person well.
8. Who pays?
The rule is whoever invites, pays. At the conclusion of the meal, you should quietly excuse yourself (no need to say where you are going) to settle the bill. This eliminates any awkwardness as to who is paying. Taking care of this in advance builds on your professionalism and reputation.
Keep emails short and concise. Initially, stick to more formal salutations until you have built rapport and avoid being too familiar too soon with recipients you haven’t met. Avoid over-using the ‘high priority’ flag, cc’ing irrelevant parties or inserting emoticons, which may be perceived as being too casual.
Business meetings are designed to be an outlet for sharing information, however, it’s important to know some rules. Mobiles should be switched off and put away – as they say “out of sight, out of mind”. Ensure you are punctual, bring writing material and don’t distract others by pen tapping or paper shuffling.