Good Manners the Focus at FPRA-Capital Chapter Luncheon

Written By: Karen Kirksey – Public Information Coordinator, The Florida Bar

Communications students from Florida State and Florida A&M universities left the traditional classroom setting for a while this week to learn a unique lesson. On Feb. 23, they attended an etiquette luncheon sponsored by the Florida Public Relations Association-Capital Chapter.

The seminar, held at the Tallahassee Center, drew 30 students and PR professionals. It was facilitated by Christopher Green, a local expert on etiquette and business protocol. In opening, Green quoted the author and philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Your manners are always under examination.”  Besides providing a sense of confidence, said Green, “Good manners will give you an edge over someone with similar education and experience.”

Green, a regulatory bureau chief with the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, is certified by the Protocol School of Washington. He is a sought-after consultant for weddings and other social events. In 90 minutes, Green offered tips for gracefully navigating in social and business settings. With wit, and audience participation, he covered everything from table manners to workplace etiquette. Noting that protocol may vary from country to country, Green urged his audience to “bone up on the culture,” before traveling or working with an international firm, to reduce the risk of offending someone.

In the social arena:

  • The first contact with a person is often a handshake. It should be firm and strong. Shake from the elbow and maintain a good distance from the person.
  • A woman offers her hand to shake first.
  • Carry beverages and plates in the left hand so your right hand is free for shaking hands.
  • When approaching a table to eat, enter from the right…
  • If you get up from the table, place your napkin in the chair.

In the business arena:

  • Gender does not play a role—everything is based on power and precedence.
  • Never use a person’s first name until you have been given permission.
  • Develop a skill for remembering names.
  • Always stand when you meet someone new, unless a situation prevents you from doing otherwise.
  • In the office, try to answer a phone on the first ring. A caller should not have to wait for more than three rings. Put yourself in the customer’s place. The person on the line is a customer or potential client.

According to Green, appropriate business attire depends on the line of work and the company. Those in public relations may be able to dress a little more creatively than those in banking, for example. As a rule of thumb, always err on the conservative side. “Business casual,” said Green, “is one of the most misunderstood ideas in the workplace. It really means relax a little, but remain professional. Remember, the first word in business casual is business.”

Fernando Senra, a director with Moore Consulting Group, Inc., was one of a few men who attended yesterday’s event. “I really enjoyed the etiquette luncheon,” he said. “I think that events like these are incredibly important in helping those currently in the industry to continuously improve their image and for students preparing to enter the workforce to gain a competitive edge. There is always something new to learn no matter where we are in our careers.”

The Capital City Bank and 101 Restaurant & Lounge co-sponsored the etiquette luncheon. Proceeds from the event benefit FPRA student scholarships, awarded annually to future communicators at local colleges.