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Why Manners Matter

Evaluations are in from a presentation I made to a group of young professionals, all new to university advancement and eager to start raising money and promoting their schools.

My talk was about business etiquette and included skills such as how to introduce yourself and others, shake hands, initiate and sustain conversation with strangers, and manage food and beverage so that it’s easier to do your job.  After all, fund-raising is about building relationships and much of that is done in a social environment such as a reception, dinner, meeting or conference.

One woman rated my presentation as “poor,” stating that time could have been better spent on “content relevant to the emerging generation of advancement professionals,” noting that social skills are old fashioned and that “country club manners” are not needed. What’s more, she said, they are sexist. While I respect her opinion, I hope time and experience will change her mind.

Mastering these fundamentals is not about being a snob or memorizing social customs of bygone eras, rather it is about building self-confidence and making others feel welcome. It is not easy to dive into a room full of strangers and start conversations, especially when guests represent multiple backgrounds, generations, and will likely include people from other countries. Etiquette creates a common framework in which people can interact so that everyone feels welcome, respected, and valued.

It is not hard to understand why this person would deem manners to be irrelevant. Incivility surrounds us. It clogs the political system, it causes us to shout, call names, be greedy, pushy, self-centered and suspicious. Incivility closes our ears and minds depriving us of the opportunity to benefit from melding ideas and differing points of view to forge a stronger whole. It erodes our way of life and even threatens our liberties.

The saying, “You are what you eat,” is true and for the past 25 years (approximately her entire lifetime) we have ingested a non-stop diet of bad behavior that has led to a steep decline in courtesy. Things that used to shock us (like the use of the f-bomb, crude potty references from Congressmen, leaders having public tantrums, or people showing up at work looking a disheveled mess) no longer do.

Instead of teaching children how to interact with others, we’ve taught them to withdraw because of “stranger danger.” Television news has devolved from reporting to angry people spewing slanted opinions. We’ve spent a decade glued to the television to see what outrageous things dysfunctional families will do to each other, who the bachelor will dump, or which person will be fired or voted out of the competition. People no longer seem able to separate entertainment from reality and instead mimic these rude, crude, mean behaviors in their daily lives.

The absence of public figures who serve as positive role models exacerbates the effects of our bad behavior binge. Incivility reigns everywhere from the local school board to the halls of congress and is becoming accepted as the norm. With a president who calls people names on Twitter, belittles those who disagree with him, and a pop culture that worships the gods of “me first,” and “in your face,” it is easy to understand why a young adult who has only seen these examples would find consideration for others to be irrelevant.

While not the cause of the decline in our interpersonal skills, the digital revolution is also a contributor. For the many great benefits of technology, the downside is people no longer need to expend the energy to interact with those around them. Instead, we use our devices as defensive barricades, studying them with intensity when we want to avoid engaging with others. We wear ear buds to send a “don’t talk to me” message and we use the anonymity of social media to shoot comments into cyberspace that we would never have the courage say to a person’s face. We battle tech neck, gamer’s thumb, and email eye because of our device addiction. We can order everything from airline tickets to groceries without ever having to talk to a human, and when we’re bored, our devices offer ample entertainment options and will even explain the choices. Why would we ever need to interact with anyone in person?

Through the decades, politics, cultural, and economic situations have always caused the manners pendulum to swing back and forth between periods of formality and times of little manners whatsoever.

There is no question we are in a period of social change, but I believe that this climate makes it more important than ever for us to reconnect as individuals by learning and practicing common courtesy and respect for others.

I, too, started my career in an era of cultural change and lack of civility. The nation was struggling to regain its footing after the Vietnam War and the resignation of a president. Fueled by the then new idea that women could be more than coffee fetchers, I firmly intended to change the world by junking most of what I had been taught, beginning with stodgy social customs.

What I didn’t realize then is that civility is the glue that holds our society together. It is what we are missing today. It is the practice of courteous self-control that gives us the ability to listen respectfully to another point of view and to disagree without being disagreable. It is the kindness of deferring to an older person. It is willingness to think of others before ourselves. It was formerly the grease that allowed the wheels of our democracy to turn and that gave legislators the self-restraint to effect compromise.

Civility and manners are timeless marks not of class or status, of “good” or “bad” people, but of leadership and humanity.  Contemporary manners are not an exclusive, elitist social code intended to exclude others. Rather, they are the lingua franca that allows us to transact our societal and interpersonal business in a global society and achieve great results.

Today’s etiquette is not that of 25 years ago. Instead, contemporary business etiquette has evolved to be gender neutral. It is not sexist like old-fashioned social etiquette, but rather, it is empowering because it levels the playing field with a defined set of norms under which we all can all operate equally regardless of religion, race, culture, gender, sexual preference, or socio-economic upbringing.

Polished manners are an equalizer that gives people the confidence of never having to feel ill at ease in any social or work situation. What’s more, using manners costs nothing and may even yield a payback—the satisfaction of knowing you have been kind to someone else.

These are the reasons we practice and study etiquette and why the effort is relevant to today’s generation of advancement professionals. None of this is unimportant or old-fashioned. Rather, it is essential to our cultural survival.

 

 

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Live Performance Etiquette: Clapping and Other Courtesies

Whether it’s the third-grade pageant at your child’s school, a university concert, the local ballet’s presentation of the “Nutcracker,” or a visit to the symphony, chances are you’ll attend a live performance during the holiday season.

Live performances demand that we observe a set of courtesies that show respect for the performers as well for as our fellow concert goers. Americans seem to have forgotten many of these standards and behave at a play or choir concert in the same way they would at an outdoor ball game, wandering in and out, talking out loud, eating at their seats, and fiddling with their cell phones. It’s all very disrespectful.

A few weeks ago, at our school’s production of “The Threepenny Opera,” a man and his children who were sitting behind me opened rattily potato chip bags and munched and crunched their way through a student soprano’s solo. Though she probably didn’t realize that half of three rows were thoroughly distracted during her performance, I felt sorry for her because she had worked so hard to perfect her part only to have it marred by salty snacks consumed by thoughtless people. A few weeks later at our community holiday concert, every time the audience applauded, two small girls leaped from their seats bouncing, clapping, and shouting as if they were cheering a touchdown. Sadly, their parents did not utilize the moment to explain the difference. Perhaps they don’t know themselves.

Much like our language, etiquette changes and evolves to be consistent with contemporary standards, but for evolution to occur, people must have a common understanding to begin with. It wasn’t too long ago that audiences showed their displeasure by throwing rotten vegetables at the performers—something that would certainly get you tossed from the hall (or worse) today. While I am not suggesting that we return to those times or to snobby “pinkies up” behavior that is intended to intimidate, I am advocating that we deploy a common set of courtesies that ensure everyone can see, hear, and enjoy a performance without disruption.

Here are some tips:

Dress up a bit. A concert or play is a celebration, the proud presentation of hours of study and weeks of practice. Show respect for the performers by looking your best.

Leave babies and small children at home. No one wants the sound of a crying child to obscure the performance of an actor or musician whom they have paid to hear. When children are with you, require them to sit in their seats and be quiet. Do not let them play with electronic games because these make bright light and irritating sounds.

Pick up a program when you arrive so you can follow the performance and know what to expect.

Be in your seats at least 10 minutes before curtain time. Arriving late is not acceptable because it disturbs both performers and patrons. If you do arrive late, ushers may ask you to wait to be seated until a suitable break in the performance.

If someone is in your reserved seat, don’t make a scene, but get an usher to resolve the problem.

To get to your seat, enter the aisle and slide with your back side facing those who are already seated. Say “excuse me” to each person you pass and thank those who stand or otherwise assist you.  If you are seated, swing your legs to one side so people can pass without tripping. Put objects such as handbags under your chair so they don’t become an unseen hazard. Leave your bulky coat and items such as umbrellas at the coat check.

Remain in your seat until intermission and do not wander in and out of the hall to talk on your phone, greet others, or get refreshments.

Turn off all electronic devices so they don’t ring, buzz, or light up. Never text, take pictures, or talk on your phone during a performance. Smartphones have brought a new term into contemporary etiquette, it’s called “manner mode,” and it means placing your phone on silent mode vs. vibrate, so it is just that—silent!

If you are a physician or someone else who is on call, give your phone to an usher so he or she can come get you if needed.

Never take food or drink to your seats, including bottled water or coffee. Finish before you enter the hall.

If you have a cough, bring unwrapped cough drops with you and be quick to exit if a coughing jag happens.

Keep your feet on the floor and off the seats in front of you.

Remember, the excellent acoustics in a concert hall may render whispers and talking audible to many people seated around you. Be silent.

How and When To Clap

Applause is the way we show our appreciation for performers, but clapping at a play or concert is different from clapping at a sporting event. The rules aren’t complicated, but applauding appropriately helps avoid destroying the mood and interrupting the flow of the performance.

At the beginning of a symphony or concert, the concertmaster arrives on stage and the audience claps as a sign of welcome. After the orchestra tunes, the conductor and possibly a soloist will walk onstage. Applaud to welcome them. When the conductor steps on the platform, however, and raises his or her baton, it signals that the music is about to start and everyone should become silent.

Once the concert begins, the audience only applauds at the end of each piece. Confusion can occur when there is a pause in the music. People mistakenly assume the piece is complete and start to clap, but in fact, the pause may simply be the separation between movements. Pay attention to your program to help determine if you are hearing a pause between movements, or are at the end of a piece. Pauses in music are there for effect, to create a mood. Clapping during one of them can dispel the mood and interfere with the momentum the musicians have worked to create. To tell if a piece is complete, watch the conductor. When she or he lowers the baton, and drops his or her hands, the piece is done and it’s time to applaud. Another way to tell is that the conductor may turn around and acknowledge the audience. If you’re in doubt, don’t be quick to applaud, but instead, wait and take your cue from others.

At a play, don’t interrupt and interfere with the flow of the performance by applauding, shouting, or whistling, no matter how wonderful the scene. Instead, hold your applause until the end of each act. Applaud again at the conclusion of the performance.

A standing ovation is the supreme compliment to performers and musicians. Not every performance deserves one, yet people have started to render this honor as if it is a matter of course. Save standing “Os” for those times when they are truly sincere.

In addition to following these courtesies yourself, give your children a lasting holiday gift by practicing these skills at school programs, church, Saturday afternoon movies, and at their annual dance and music recitals.

 

 

 

 

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Maximize Holiday Mingling

Year-end brings a flurry of opportunity for holiday mingling at receptions, programs, and other entertainments to thank donors, congratulate December graduates, celebrate with employees, and welcome the New Year. In our office, December 1 begins a string of entertaining that continues non-stop until the last graduate leaves the parking lot after commencement on December 10. Universities spend thousands of dollars and hours of staff time to make certain each guest list is accurate, the program is perfect, the décor sets the right tone, and the food is delicious in order to thank and impress guests with an eye toward affirming or deepening their future involvement. We’ve got event logistics down pat, but are we getting the most out of our staff involvement?

Too often advancement and other university staff, such as deans and vps, attend functions only to congregate in a cluster talking to primarily to each other, or appear just long enough to have a drink and nosh on prime catering before mentally checking the “I did it” box and making an early exit. Meaningful engagement between staff and guests is the only way to garner ROI on any kind of event, but it is especially important during year-end gatherings when giving is in the air and people are in a charitable mood.  Here are some tips to help your team maximize their effectiveness:

Be clear about the event’s purpose. Who is the audience and why is this function being held?

Review the proposed guest list before invitations are issued, adding new prospects and subtracting people who have moved, elected officials who are no longer in office, and cleaning up data base land mines like names of former spouses still linked to their exes, or worse, names of people who have died.

Always take Rsvps and assign advancement staff to greet and spend time with, a specific list of guests. Staff should research each person on their list to understand each guest’s interests, history with your school, and his or her current involvement. Make certain staff are aware of significant occurrences in guest’s lives such as a recent death in the family, or happy news, like a job promotion or child’s graduation.

Notify the deans and other ranking personnel about which of their key constituents, donors, or prospects will be present.

Require advancement staff to arrive no later than 30 minutes ahead of the event starting time. This ensures school representatives are present to greet guests as they arrive.

Be certain advancement staff know details like the locations of food, bars and restrooms, what time the program will begin, and where to put coats.

Brief staff on what to do in case of emergencies such as sudden illness, falls or fainting, or the need to evacuate.

All advancement staff should be up-to-date and ready to converse on school happenings ranging from athletics teams’ records to the latest news on research projects.

Keep cell phones out-of-sight and concentrate on conversing with the guests.

Because many people are sensitive about their reputations, particularly if they are attending an event where alcohol is being served or that might be associated with a political point-of-view, never take photos of guests without their permission, especially if the intention is to post images online.

Staff should not enter “behind the scenes” areas such as the kitchen or prep rooms. Having extra people in these areas impedes workers and, depending on local ordinances, can also constitute a health department violation. Besides, staff belong with the guests, not hiding backstage!

Require advancement staff to remain until the event is over, otherwise, guests can be left without university representatives with whom to converse.

The next business day, conduct a debriefing with your team to collect information resulting from the conversations they had and to develop next-step action items.

For more tips on how to work a room, download my CASE webinar, “Conferences, Receptions, and Cocktails” at www.case.org. Click on Publications and Products, Store, and under Product Type, find Webinars. To arrange an on-site customized training for your team, contact me at april@aprillharris.com.

 

 

 

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Catering to Dietary Requests

A recent “Special Events Magazine” survey of caterers revealed that special dietary requests from guests attending meetings and events now constitute 20 percent of an audience, up from five percent 10 years ago.

While requests for special meals due to religious or medical reasons must be honored, these days, requests are often more a matter of personal preference than necessity. Vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, and organic are common and easily accommodated requests. Things get more complicated (and expensive) when guests request specific food items or preparation techniques. Last week’s requests included steamed vegetables only, a particular brand of coconut water, and meat sourced from a specific vendor. The most challenging are people who walk in and announce their restrictions, expecting to be accommodated on the spot.

In our “have it now” society, guests don’t realize that catered events don’t have the flexibility of restaurants and that the menus for meals at a private home, the president’s official residence, for example, are planned well in advance. There is no larder behind the kitchen door stocked like a gourmet grocery store. Options for unexpected substitutions are often quite limited. What’s an event planner to do?

While it won’t always be possible to accommodate all requests, our job is to make everyone feel welcome. The foods we serve are perhaps the most personal way to do so.

The best way to prepare is by thinking in advance about the guest list, your locale, and the capabilities of your caterer. Caterers report the Millennial generation is the most apt to make special requests. More than half of the top ten vegetarian cities in the U.S. are university towns. If you live in one them, it goes without saying that you should be prepared to host many vegetarians at your events. If your alumni include a high percentage of people who observe religious dietary laws, obviously, you need to plan accordingly.

Discuss the guest list with your caterer in advance trying to anticipate special requests. For a served meal it is preferable to select a menu that can be discreetly customized so that all plates look the same. For example, a beef entrée with several sides of vegetables can be easily modified by substituting the meat with a vegetarian product and keeping the same sides.

On a buffet, offer a wide variety of options labeling each food, noting which are vegetarian, which have common allergens such as nuts or seafood, and which are gluten-free so that guests can select the foods that meet their needs.

Create a special request drop-down on computer registration sites or on rsvp cards. Limit the number of choices to help control frivolous requests such as one we recently received from a woman who replied to attend an academic symposium. She provided a long list of foods she doesn’t like and won’t eat, noting at the end she is, however, willing to eat organic honey.

State a deadline for special requests and note that while you will try to accommodate requests after that time, no guarantee is made. This gives you and the caterers time to prepare and some wiggle room when people show up at the last minute demanding a special meal.  One word of caution: When one events planner recently took dietary requests online, the responses jumped to 30 percent of the guest list.

If you’re the one with special dietary needs, it’s polite to confine your requests to restrictions based on serious needs (allergies, religious laws, vegetarianism) vs. simple preferences (you don’t like tomatoes). Always make your needs known when accepting an invitation.  If you forget, it is poor form to put your host on the spot by expecting to be accommodated when you arrive. Instead, simply avoid or discreetly decline the foods that you cannot eat and catch a snack on the way home!

 

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Webinar Gives Staff Confidence to Manage Mingling

August is New Year’s in higher education. By month’s end, the majority of schools are back in session and advancement teams are already involved in a tide of fall special events that entail managing mingling including football tailgating, alumni reunions, fund-raising programs, and student recruiting receptions. Hosting guests and making them feel welcome is one of the fundamental jobs of advancement professionals but “working a room” is a skill that isn’t natural and doing it well can take years of practice. These days, most people are far more comfortable texting than they are talking to the living, breathing humans standing nearby. This includes our own staff members, especially if they are newcomers to our profession.

Special events are some of the most effective tools for building personal relationships, but they are also one of the most expensive. When guests attend an event without being greeted, made to feel welcome, and encouraged to deepen their involvement because someone actually took the time to engage them in conversation and get to know them, events are simply a waste of resources. The obvious per-person cost of food and beverage notwithstanding, special events carry a large cost in planning, staffing, and follow up. But the irreplaceable fact that makes events worth doing is that they offer one-on-one relationship building opportunities far more powerful than any online campaign.

We’ve all experienced events where staff huddle talking to each other rather than working the crowd, or they make certain the boss sees them, then load up at the buffet and finally melt away without interacting with anyone. I’m not talking about just rookies. Senior staff are equally guilty!

As American culture has become more casual, many people have arrived at adulthood without knowing how to socialize in a crowd. This doesn’t mean they aren’t willing, it just means the opportunity to learn hasn’t been available. Giving staff tools for self-confidence through training is a proven way to boost performance and maximize ROI whether they are attending a board meeting, or mingling at a black-tie gala.

A perennial exercise of each new school year is holding planning “retreats” and training workshops to indoctrinate newcomers, update continuing staff, map out goals, and energize everyone for the work ahead. This is the perfect time to train your staff by honing their interpersonal skills which in turn will give them the confidence to take the lead in social settings.

Essential skills include knowing how to shake hands properly, make a self-introduction, introduce others, mingle while balancing food and beverage, enter and exit a group, enjoy conversation, and dress for the occasion.

This summer I recorded a webinar, “Conferences, Receptions, and Cocktails,” for the Council For Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), that covers these and other pertinent topics relevant to the variety of the occasions we encounter on campus. I encourage you to consider incorporating it into your fall retreat. Doing so will provide staff with the self-confidence to do their jobs, and help establish a standard code of conduct for your advancement team. The webinar is posted at case.org and is complimentary to members. Log-in at www.case.org and go to Publications and Products, Store, under Product Type, find Webinars.

Best wishes for much success in the new academic year!

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Dress for Summer Success

Summer weather arrived this week in full hot, sticky force making getting dressed for work a challenge. Despite the skimpy and skin-tight clothes that Hollywood wears, most of us live and work in far more conservative environments meaning no matter how hot it is, we can’t go to work barely clothed.

Special events planners and development officers must always look polished and put together. We never know when we may be called to arrange an impromptu meeting for the president, give a presentation, or have lunch with a donor. Here are some easy ways to look professional regardless of the humidity.

Women: Trade in your suits for polished dresses. I’m not talking about strapless sun dresses or those with spaghetti straps. Stick with sheath-style dresses that have a jewel or U-neck and short or cap sleeves. Light weight ponte knit is cool and resists wrinkles so you always look fresh. Dresses are more cool than pants because your legs aren’t wrapped in fabric.

Dressy sandals are ok in many offices; as long you have a pedicure. Flip flops are never appropriate for work. On important days, closed-toe pumps are the most professional. Either way, stick with heels that are three inches or less and avoid thick platform soles so that you can walk comfortably. Stockings are optional, but for important occasions such as a board meeting, or if you are interviewing, very sheer panty hose add a more finished look to your legs.

Jackets communicate an air of authority but there is nothing more uncomfortable than a heavy, lined jacked in the summertime! Summer suits are sometimes inevitable, so choose lightweight fabrics that hold their press and resist wrinkles such as tropical weight wool or synthetics that offer a bit of stretch. Linen is a great summer look, but it is notorious for wrinkles. Scale back what’s underneath to a breathable silk or lace tank, but choose a style that completely covers your bra straps and does not show cleavage. It’s fine to cool off by removing your jacket while in your own office, but definitely put it on when you leave your office for any reason.

Unless you are attending the office picnic, or an outdoor alumni gathering, skip capris and shorts at the office. Instead, pick full-length pants that send a polished and put together professional message. When the occasion is an outdoor function, good casual options are knit summer dresses or casual skirts and knit tops. The caveat is that dresses and skirts should not be super short, skin tight, or display your cleavage. Golf outings call for Bermuda shorts or golf skirts. Choose a length that extends to just above your knee.

Despite aggressive marketing messages to the contrary, unless you are a fitness instructor, clothing that falls in the “athleisure” category is not appropriate for the office. This includes leggings, stretchy skin-tight tank tops, yoga pants, sneakers, and slouchy sweatshirts (even those made of cashmere!). This entire category of admittedly very comfortable clothing, belongs at the gym or at home, but not at work or in public.

Summer means offices, restaurants, theatres, jets, and hotels are often freezing cold with overly aggressive air conditioning. Toss that ugly, old sweater that you keep in your office for this purpose and replace it with a stylish, lightweight shawl called a pashmina. Choose one in a summer color for a versatile and portable defense. A travel essential, a pashmina can be rolled into your computer bag or tucked into your in-flight carry on so it’s always conveniently at hand.

Men: At least one tropical weight wool suit is a summer staple and depending on where you live, can be worn up to nine months a year. Choose a classic navy for the most versatility. If you wear a suit often, other cool fabric options are seersucker, poplin, or linen. A summer-weight blazer in blue is a wardrobe essential.

On casual days, a dress shirt (plain or patterned with or without a tie) with sleeves turned up paired with khaki trousers and a great watch, is a good look. Never choose a short-sleeved dress shirt. Collared polo shirts are the next level down in casual, but appropriate for outdoor activities, sporting events, and golf outings. Polos should be in new condition, not faded or sagging. Tee shirts that have advertising or other sayings should never be worn to work.

Good casual pant choices are khakis or chinos that will hold a press and look polished. Resist the temptation to wear your favorite jeans (you are not a college student), especially ones that are faded or have a saggy seat. Shorts are not appropriate for the office but you may need a pair for outdoor activities and the golf course. Shorts should be tailored, pressed, and worn with a belt, of a length that reaches to just above the knee, not the shapeless, super-casual pull-on variety. Many golf courses have dress codes that require men to wear collared shirts and that specify the length of shorts. Always check to avoid being denied access or asked to change into a spare pair of “house shorts” kept on hand for this purpose. You can never go wrong doing as the touring pros do and wear long slacks instead.

Sandals not appropriate for men at work, but remember that you will need seasonal footwear to match your summer attire. This includes dress shoes for your suits, and loafers or similar for more casual looks. Socks are essential when wearing trousers or a suit. Ditch the athletic shoes. They are too casual for the office. For those times when you do need sandals (escorting an alumni kayaking trip, for example), be sure your feet are appropriately groomed by treating them to a pedicure.

 

 

 

 

 

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Business Etiquette Week Prompts Positive Conversation

The Protocol School of Washington (www.psow.edu) has declared June 4-10 National Business Etiquette Week with a theme of “Toxic Workplaces: How to Resurrect Civility in Business.”  Bravo to them because we could all use a reminder about now. Incivility is rampant. It is an insidious poison that degrades our relationships with individuals and nations, and erodes our own happiness. Incivility breeds incivility but the good news is that civility is contagious and far less stressful than living in a constant state of self-absorbed, aggressive snark.

National Business Etiquette Week and its theme prompted a healthy discussion in the university events office, not only because we are the keepers of campus protocol, but we are often the face of the university to alumni, donors, and our community. We are expected to be considerate, after all, that is our job. The flip side is that we are also the recipients of rude behavior from entitled guests who fail to r.s.v.p., announce dietary restrictions as meals are being served, demand to know why arrangements aren’t tailored to their personal preferences, arrive late, show up to adult occasions with children in tow, or worst of all, r.s.v.p. and then don’t show up at all. Through it all, we must maintain composure and treat everyone with unfailing politeness. It’s not always easy. Our conversation led to the consensus that business etiquette boils down to showing respect for others (even when we disagree with what they do or say) and treating them the way we would like to be treated. It’s thinking more about the other person than ourselves.  We created lists of the behaviors we don’t like, and the positive behaviors that we do like. Thinking about business etiquette helped us re-focus on what we can do to make our world more respectful. I hope you and your staff will take the time this week to do the same.

Here is our list of every day ways we can be part of the solution.

We pledge to respect others by:

  1. Affirming that race, religion, politics, and sexual orientation have no bearing on our ability to be polite. Everyone has value as a person.
  2. Being on time. Doing so shows respect for colleagues and guests.
  3. Being prepared for meetings by having the items we have been assigned completed or ready for discussion and all needed materials with us.
  4. Returning all messages promptly, including e-mails.
  5. Keeping our inboxes clean. (Nothing says “disorganized” or is more frustrating than hearing a “this inbox is full and cannot accept messages” recording on cell or office telephones.)
  6. Eschewing foul language, especially the once taboo but now ubiquitous “f-bomb.”
  7. Dressing professionally which means wearing clothes and accessories that are appropriate for the office, modest in styling and that cover cleavage, tattoos, toes, and upper arms. For men, it means shirts with collars and trousers on a casual day, coat and tie otherwise.
  8. Keeping the office kitchenette and break room tidy. No dishes in the sink, litter or spills left behind on surfaces or in the microwave, and only fresh food stored in the refrigerator.
  9. Keeping private life private by not talking about personal problems in the office or online.
  10. Treating coworkers with a cheerful attitude and a sincere willingness to help accomplish goals.

 

 

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Polish Your Formal Meeting Manners

Advancement professionals are often asked to make presentations or represent university leadership at formal meetings such as those conducted by the school’s board of trustees, alumni or foundation boards, community non-profit organizations, or local government. Presenting yourself and your school with polished meeting manners goes a long way toward establishing credibility. Here’s how to project a professional image when you are attending a meeting.

Arrive on time in business attire (suits for both men and women), prepared for the topics to be discussed. Review any background materials, including minutes of the previous meeting, that were distributed in advance. Familiarize yourself with the names of board members. If you are making remarks or giving a presentation, plan and rehearse what you will say. Have your papers and relevant materials neatly organized in a folio so you don’t have to dig for them. It is considerate to give your business card to the meeting secretary so that your name and title can be accurately recorded in the minutes.

If you are a guest or newcomer to the group, make your presence known by introducing yourself to the meeting chairperson or planner. He or she should indicate where you are to sit. If not, ask before taking a seat. Place your computer bag, tote, or purse on the floor beside your chair (never on the meeting table).  Silence your cell phone and put it out of sight. Peruse the agenda so that you know when it will be your turn to speak. Introduce yourself to others and make light conversation with the people seated beside you until the meeting begins. Don’t arrive with a to-go cup of coffee, water bottle, or food in hand. Doing so lacks polish and hints that you don’t trust your host to offer refreshments.

If you are making a presentation that requires audio visual equipment, arrive early so that you have time to test it. Avoid computer compatibility problems by bringing your own laptop, connector cables, and your own remote. Always have a copy of your show on a thumb drive not only as a backup, but so that it can be given to the AV techs in the event all shows are being run from a house computer. Test all Internet or Wi-Fi connections if they are essential to your show. Remember that your computer may have to be signed-on to a secure network in advance.

When it is your turn to speak, take your tablet, laptop, or notes to the podium. If you’re using written notes, carry them in an attractive portfolio. Don’t place them on the podium in advance because other speakers may need room to spread out their things and you run the risk of them being accidentally being picked up by another speaker when he or she leaves the lectern. Respect others by confining your remarks to the amount of time you have been assigned.

During the meeting, keep attention focused on the purpose at hand by refraining from texting, checking e-mail, or doodling.

If no refreshments are offered, don’t ask for them. When beverages are served in cans, pour the contents into a glass before drinking. Keep your seat during the meeting and keep your place at the meeting table free from litter. Place dirty cups and trash on a side table (if one has been provided) during an appropriate break in the proceedings.

Don’t interrupt others or comment on everything that is said. Organize your thoughts before speaking. If you disagree with something that has been said, do so politely and avoid credibility-damaging outbursts of anger.

When the meeting ends, thank the chairperson before you leave. Follow up promptly on promises or assignments.

 

 

 

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Be A Polished Meeting Leader

Much of a meeting’s effectiveness boils down to manners (or lack of them). A well-managed meeting increases productivity and runs smoothly, largely because the meeting’s chairperson and participants know their roles. Here are some tips for chairing a meeting.

The first step toward meeting success is having a clear purpose and knowing what you want to accomplish. Define the meeting’s objective, and then determine who needs to attend to accomplish it. Invite only the people necessary to fulfill the task. Not only will a smaller group speed things along, people appreciate not having their time occupied unnecessarily.

Schedule the meeting for early in the day, so people can stop on their way to work. This strategy lets you harness participants’ creativity while they are fresh and energetic and helps ensure attendance because you catch people before they get bogged down in problems at their own offices.

Set an agenda and distribute it beforehand via e-mail. Include background information that will help make the time spent together more productive.

Select and prepare the meeting room for maximum comfort. A room that is brightly lit and cool will help keep people from becoming drowsy. Check the room arrangement by actually sitting in different locations to be certain everyone can see and hear. Cue computer slides, videos, test Wi-Fi connections, and conference-calling gear. Know what to do if equipment malfunctions or, if you are in a hotel or conference facility, how to contact the on-call AV specialist. Practice dimming and turning on lights. Thoroughly test sound equipment, including all microphones, and adjust volume levels. Tape electrical cords (especially those around the podium) to the floor for safety.

Offer beverages such as water, sodas, coffee, and tea. Other refreshments are not necessary unless the meeting will be long or encompass a meal time.

It is the chairperson’s responsibility to introduce people to each other and to tell them where to sit.

If your meeting is formal or will involve unfamiliar people, prepare each person a name plate that can be read by others in the room. Assigning seats also gives you the opportunity to strategically seat people together or to tactfully keep adversaries separated. Remember that the second most important person present should be seated on the chairperson’s right.

Begin on time, and don’t interrupt progress by stopping the proceedings to fill-in latecomers. Instead, keep the meeting moving, and bring those who are tardy up-to-date after adjournment.

Don’t allow phone calls or interruptions, and politely request that cell phones be silenced.

Set the tone and establish control by delivering a crisp welcome and very brief overview. Stick to the agenda, and guide conversation to keep things moving on track. Limit circuitous discussion and disagreements and don’t let the meeting disintegrate into bickering or aimless rambling. Settle differences by taking a vote, or if an issue cannot be resolved, assign the subject to a sub-committee for further study.

As chairperson, see to it that people speak in turn and that everyone has a chance to contribute. Call on quiet people to encourage their participation, and tactfully cut off a windy person’s lengthy remarks, especially when they are inappropriate or off-subject.

Take minutes, and distribute them via e-mail before the next meeting. Minutes serve as a reminder of who promised to do what by when.

Next week: Polished Manners for Attending Meetings