With the current focus on social media and the best etiquette for this (relatively) new way of communicating, we often forget about good, old-fashioned face-to-face etiquette.

While many of our connections with others have moved online, we still function each day with other people. These may be colleagues or coworkers. They may be clients or new acquaintances. But we still need to know how to act around them in order to not embarrass ourselves or our firms.

Here are a few basic etiquette tips to remember (there are many, but these ten are some of the most frequently abused):

1. Always have business cards. I know some people might disagree on this one, but most people still have some kind of business card. It remains an efficient way to gather information, even if you are inputting that information into another system and disposing of the actual cards within hours (if not minutes) of receiving it.  Yet, do not litter the room with your cards.  Give out one card, and only give it to people who ask for it. Keep your cards in a business card holder. It’s just gross to pull a wrinkled card out of your back pocket and hand it to someone.

2. Turn off your cell phone: If you have your cell phone on you, make sure it is set on vibrate. No one feels very special when the conversation that they are having with you is interrupted by your wacko ringtone. If you forget to turn it off, do not answer it and apologize profusely for the interruption.

3. Picking up the tab: If you ask someone out for lunch or coffee, you should pay. If they insist on paying their portion, don’t get in a fight over it. Let them pay. But, when in doubt, if you asked for the lunch/coffee/etc., you pay.

4. Handshaking: When you are at an event that involves food, you should always have your right hand free to shake hands. This is why cocktail tables are handy. You can have food OR beverage in your hands, but not both. If someone extends their hand, you don’t want to juggle your food or drink someone is waiting to shake your hand.

5. Moving on: So you have made a new contact, and now it is time to move on. Once the conversation has hit a lull, tell them how nice it was to meet them (or see them again, if you already know them) and move on, saying that there is someone else that you want to catch before they leave (or some other polite reason for excusing yourself.)

6. Name tags: Put your name tag on your left lapel. That way, when people shake your hands, they can also be looking at your name tag.

7. Names: If you don’t catch someone’s name the first time, politely ask for it again rather than embarrassing yourself by calling someone the wrong name.

8. How to dress: There is plenty of advice out there on this, but it’s better to overdress than underdress. Look online for more advice on this, but be mindful of how to wear your suits (how to button/unbutton your jackets, etc.) and  what kind of shoes/jewelry/accessories are appropriate. The key is to remember that your appearance is saying something about you, and you want to make sure you are controlling that message.

9. Keep your mouth shut: With or without alcohol, some people just share way too much information. You don’t need to be sharing personal information with anyone except close friends and family. At social events, stick to polite, neutral conversation that makes everyone feel comfortable. Always come armed with a couple of current events to talk about in case conversation stagnates, but don’t digress into what your lactose intolerant body does when you accidentally ingest Gouda cheese. That’s a sure turn-off.

10. Say “please and thank you”: Use the manners that you learned as a child. General politeness never goes out of style.

Any other etiquette tips for business occasions like networking, lunches, coffees, or even meetings? Please share them here.


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