business etiquette

Minding Your Business Etiquette

Interacting with business leaders and influential people can be daunting, especially in more formal settings.
Brush up on your etiquette before you attend a function that might be out of the norm of your routine.
For leaders and representatives of states and nations, there are certain protocols, and they’re usually spelled out for their guests ahead of time.
Everyday leaders, however, generally follow social rules.

Here are the major ones.

For a business event:

  • Accept (or regret) the invitation promptly. Hosts need numbers — to arrange seating, order food, and provide other accommodations.
  • Never bring a guest unless the invitation specifies a “plus one.” Even with casual invitations, ask the host before bringing a guest.
  • Determine proper dress. Keep a tie and jacket handy for impromptu meetings.
  • Be judicious with jewelry and makeup.
  • Be well groomed, from head to toe. Use breath mints: People always remember those with bad breath.
  • Be 15 minutes early, or at least prompt, but not so early as to make the hosts uncomfortable, and not so late as to disturb proceedings.
  • Make sure you’re checked in properly.
  • Never switch place cards or seats. The host has gone to lengths to arrange seating, and has reasons for the positions.
  • Observe proper table manners. If unsure of customs or formalities, watch the host or their assistant for cues.
  • Silence your cellphone at an event.
  • Learn proper introductions. Young is introduced to
  • Look someone in the eye when introduced and repeat their name. (It helps you remember it later.)
  • Know when (if at all) to talk business, and with whom.
  • Do not co-opt a speaker. If introduced, say a few words, and let others speak to them. Same goes for a book signing or a photo op.
  • Do not interrupt a speaker with questions: Hold till prompted at the end, or after a speech.
  • Do not dismiss or be rude to the service staff. It makes you look rude and small.
  • Don’t be a last-to-leave. When the crowd leaves, follow.
  • Thank your host for inviting you — in writing.

Learn from an expert

There are whole manuals written about business etiquette, and classes available online. One of our favorite experts is Jacqueline Whitmore. Her website,, offers numerous tips on how to fit in with ease in business situations.

She’s also an expert on international protocol and has coached VIPs around the world how to meet, greet and socialize in formal and informal situations.

Put your best foot, hand and mouth forward by learning the ins and outs of business gatherings before you go. This education goes far in other areas of your life as well — there’s a high ROI factor here.

Ben’s Takeaway: “By proffering an image of confidence with grace in social and business situations, you have the upper hand.”



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