1.  Business Cards

Handing out business cards serves many of the same purposes as the ?Victorian custom? of leaving calling cards with the butler to announce you dropped by for a visit.  That fine old custom accomplished several objectives.

  • Told the recipient you thought he or she was worth your time and attention.
  • Respectfully placed the decision of whether to see you in the recipient?s hands, rather than forcing yourself into his or her day at an inconvenient time.
  • Gave the correct spelling of your name, and sometimes a title or affiliation.
  • Allowed for a brief note (some unique or significant detail you might want to add).

Business cards today incorporate all the uses of the old-fashioned calling card and do still more.

  • Invite a new business acquaintance to get in touch with you.
  • Define your position and responsibilities (e.g., Vice President, Sales).
  • Provide several ways to reach you:  mailing address, telephone, fax, e-mail address, alternate phone numbers, and sometimes your assistant?s telephone number.

Personal Business Cards

  • A job seeker should have a printed card of some kind.  This is the most efficient way to give someone you meet enough information to reach you in the future.
  • Make sure the card is of high-quality stock printed with a readable font.
  • Include your full name, home address, home phone number, and if applicable, a home e-mail address and fax number.
  • Carry a few in each coat, suit, handbag, or briefcase so they will be handy for all occasions.

How to Hand Out Business Cards, and to Whom

  • If you?re reasonably sure you?ll be dealing with someone in the future, ask for a business card and give yours in return.  The one exception is with a top executive who clearly outranks you.  If such a senior person wants your card, or wants you to have his, he will tell you so.
  •  When given a card, don?t just snatch it and jam it into your pocket.  Take a moment to look at it, perhaps complimenting its design.  Then slip it into your wallet or planner.
  • Offer one card to a person, not a fistful as if you were trying to flood the market with the wonder of you and your title.
  • Offering your card privately to someone at a social event is perfectly fine, but suggest holding off on detailed business talk until another day.

International Considerations

Keep in mind that etiquette for handing out business cards may vary across cultures. 

2.  Networking

A convention, conference, or other professional meeting offers you a networking opportunity on a platinum platter.  Make it a point to meet people from other companies or from out-of-town branches from your own company.  You never know what meeting may someday blossom into a valuable business relationship.

3.  Introductions

Introducing people is one of the most important protocols in business etiquette.

What to say

  • Mention the name of the person of authority or importance first
    • Introduce a younger person to an older person.
    • Introduce a coworker to a client or to a worker from another company.
    • Introduce a layperson to an official.
    • Introduce anyone at a party to a guest of honor.
  • You only have to say each person?s name once.
  • If you can, add some information about each person.

Impressive Responses to an Introduction

  • Stand up.  This rule applies to men and women alike.  Failing to stand up could suggest you think the other person unimportant.
  • Smile and make eye contact.  Your smile conveys warmth, openness, and interest in the person you?re meeting.
  • State your greeting.  You can say something like:
    • ?Nice to meet you, Mr./Ms. Someone?
    • ?It?s a pleasure Mr./Ms. Someone?
    • ?Hello Mr./Ms. Someone"
  • Shake hands.  A proper handshake lasts about three seconds; the clasped hands are pumped once or twice and then unclasped, even if the introduction drags on.
  • Say goodbye.  When the conversation ends, make sure to say goodbye.


4.  Dining Etiquette

Dining etiquette and table manners play an important part in making a favorable impression.  They are visible signals of the state of our manners and therefore are essential to professional success.

5.  Use of Alcohol

When alcohol is served off site in conjunction with a company-sponsored event, the sponsors and hosts of the event promote moderation through such measures as controlling the duration of beverage service.  They also ensure that alcohol is served in accordance with state and local regulations (e.g., minimum drinking age laws).  Limit alcohol.  First, and most importantly, do not consume alcohol excessively.  Etiquette experts advise limiting alcohol consumption at office parties to two drinks, the same amount suggested for any business function.

A company-sponsored event is social interaction on a business level.  You still abide by the rules of business.  Limiting your alcohol consumption can help you avoid inappropriate behavior or problematic conversations.  Off-duty use of alcoholic beverages is prohibited if the off-duty use results in aberrant or impaired behavior, function, or capability while on duty.

6Tips for Dealing with Service Staff

  • Show courtesy to doormen, front-desk personnel, cleaners, and security guards.
  • If in the habit of working late, be courteous to the regular cleaning person by saying hello or asking his or her name and introducing yourself.  You don’t have to get involved in a conversation, but being respectful makes the cleaner feel less anxiety about intruding on your space and interrupting your work.


7Effective Conversation

Eliminate These Vocal No-No’s

  • Monotone
  • Whining
  • Mumbling
  • Speaking too fast
  • Speaking too slow
  • Speaking in a nasal voice
  • Saying “yeah”
  • Saying “Uh-huh”

Develop Conversational Aptitude

  • Practice talking to strangers; i.e., in the elevator, on the airplane, standing in line.
  • Know news of the day – locally, nationally, and internationally.

Sidestep Conversational Taboos

  • Tasteless jokes
  • Politics
  • Religion
  • Personal finance
  • Poor health
  • Family tragedy
  • Sex.

Someone said, “Learn one interesting word a day.  It will give you something interesting to say.”

Big Techniques for Small Talk

“One always speaks badly when one has nothing to say.” – Voltaire

The ability to make small talk about non-business topics is an essential part of establishing any business relationship.  Practice these key ingredients for small talk.

  • Attending skills (Tuning In) -- The acronym SOFTEN is a great tool for gaining and giving attention.
    • Smile
    • Open Posture
    • Forward Lean
    • Tone
    • Eye communication
    • Nod
  • Listening manners
    • Create a setting.
    • Tune out the distractions.
    • Be aware of your non-verbal signals.
  • Conversational contribution
    • Just as it’s impolite to monopolize a conversation, it’s rude to stay silent.
    • People may interpret silence as hostility or disapproval.
    • The key is knowing both when to speak and what to say.

Conversational Checklist

  • Did I smile at appropriate times?
  • Was my smile genuine?
  • Was my body language open?
  • Was I careful not to cross my arms in a defensive posture?
  • Did I move and lean toward people rather than backing away?
  • Was my voice enthusiastic?
  • Did I sound interested in others?
  • Did I look at people approximately 80 percent of the time?
  • Did I avoid eye jumping or staring?
  • Did I periodically nod or look as if I agreed?

Quiet, Please!

Noise can be an enemy of the cubicle dweller.  It is a constant distraction to concentration in a space that can’t be soundproofed with the closing of a door.  Hear, hear:

  • Even hard walls are no match for some people’s voices.  If you have such a voice, get in the habit of speaking more softly in open-plan offices.
  • Many people tend to unconsciously talk louder when they’re on the phone.  As silly as it sounds, a Post-it note marked “Shhh!” or similar message will remind you to lower your voice.
  • Never shout a request or response to someone in a nearby cubicle.  If it’s too much trouble to walk over, pick up the phone instead.
  • When you ask the people in the next cubicle to quiet down, do it as politely as possible.  Remember that minor resentments may be magnified by someone who is dissatisfied at being consigned to a cubicle and can quickly lead to frayed tempers.
  • If you walk up to someone in a cubicle and find he’s on the phone, don’t hover there waiting for him to hang up.  Leave and try again later.


8. Communicating Electronically

Etiquette Precepts That Have Emerged in E-mail Culture

  • Always respond.  Junk mail and forwards are one thing, but you should always respond to a real business message, whether it’s to invite you to a meeting or to provide information you requested.
  • Keep it short.  In some places, e-mail in-box logs can be stacked high by midmorning, and having to plow through mailings more than a paragraph or two long is inconvenient for the recipient.
  • Don’t get emotional.  Even though e-mail messages are familiar in tone, keep your emotions in check.

Electronic Communication Cautions to Keep in Mind

  • Consider confidentiality.  Be cautious about sending confidential or sensitive information materials such as contracts, business plans, salary, and sales information.
  • Know when it’s appropriate.  The more serious the message, the less appropriate e-mail becomes as the medium.
  • Give attention to detail.  Be careful that you send your e-mails to the intended recipient.
  • Use discretion.  Be careful what you forward.  Don’t “Reply to All” when you intend to only reply to the sender!
  • Reserve personal use.  Be mindful that voluminous private correspondence with family and friends can become an issue of productivity and misuse of corporate communications systems.

9. Telephone Etiquette (Points of Politeness)

Practices to Help You Make a Better Impression

  • Hold back on first names.  If you haven’t met someone and have some reason to suspect he doesn’t share your informal nature, don’t call him by his first name unless he has made it clear that it is OK to do so.  Otherwise, you can come across as overly familiar or impolite.
  • Go easy on “you.”  During the course of the call, be careful not to overuse the word “you” especially when the person is at fault for something.  Putting your comments in the form of a question is preferable.
  • Listen carefully.  The impersonal nature of a phone call makes it easy for you to tune out, even when a business call requires your utmost attention.  Listening closely is not only courteous but ensures that you won’t miss any details.  Also, let the caller know you’re listening by using verbal responses.
  • Speak slowly.  While it is important to speak slowly and clearly during the course of a phone conversation, it is equally as important to speak slowly and clearly when leaving a message on voice mail or an answering machine.  The person shouldn’t have to replay the message several times to get your phone number.  They may just not bother calling back if that is the case.

Leave a Current Out-of Office Message on Your Voice Mail System

When leaving a message for callers, be sure to include the essentials:  your name, department, what information to leave with you, and whom the caller may contact as an alternative.  Anything more than that is excessive.  Most people don’t like long and rambling messages to learn you are not available.

Phone-call FAUX PAS

  • Don’t do other things at your desk while talking on the phone.  Typing and shuffling papers suggests your attention is elsewhere.
  • Eating while on the phone is not only distracting but subjects the other person to unnerving smacks and crunches.  Remember that sounds are magnified over the telephone.
  • Never chew gum while talking on the phone.  While gum chewing may not be offensive to some people, you have no way of knowing whether your “phone mate” considers it unprofessional.
  • Don’t sneeze, blow your nose, or cough directly into the receiver.  Either excuse yourself for a moment or turn your head away.
  • If you’re holding a business meeting in your office and the phone rings, don’t answer unless you’re expecting an important call.  Then apologize to those present for the interruption.

Returning Phone Calls

  • When someone calls you, return the call within 24 hours.
  • Remember that you will be doing the caller a favor when you call back to relay bad news that his or her services will not be needed at this time or that you can’t help him or her.
  • If you promise to call someone back at a stipulated time, do so.  You are in effect “standing up” someone if you don’t call back when you said you would.
  • If you set a time for someone to call you back, be available when you said you would be.

10. Grooming

Staying well-groomed is a sign of professionalism and a consideration to co-workers.

  • Hair.  Wash your hair often enough to keep it from looking greasy.  If you tend to have dandruff, use a dandruff shampoo and keep a small brush in the office for whisking it off your shoulders.
  • Fingernails.  Keep a nail clipper with a cleaning tool in your desk drawer.  Dirt can mysteriously appear under your fingernails when you least expect it.  Nails should be trimmed straight across with about 1/16 of white showing.  Push back the cuticles occasionally, too.
  • Body odor.  A daily bath is the best defense against body odor and a deodorant or antiperspirant is the second best.  Deodorants only mask odor while antiperspirants block sweat.  Combination deodorant/antiperspirants are available, but don’t apply them too thickly or the scent could become obvious later in the day.  An unscented formula is an option.
  • Breath.  To keep your breath fresh, bring your toothbrush to work and brush after lunch.  Brushing the back of the tongue helps control odor and a breath mint or two during the day may keep you from offending.
  • Cologne/Perfume.  No element of the business world requires more consideration than cologne.  Be courteous in using fragranced products, after all, the purpose of a fragrance is to attract not distract.  One of the worst things to deal with in the office is an unpleasant odor.  Just because you enjoy colognes or perfumes doesn’t mean all your co-workers do.  If you are in the practice of wearing fragrances, use them sparingly.  Be alert to adverse reactions by your co-workers.  Avoid fragrances that may trigger sneezing or coughing by others who may have allergic reactions.

    These image enhancers are essential to be considered professional.

    • Accountability
    • Follow-through
    • Conversational skills
    • Approachability
    • Polished
    • Sense of humor
    • Walk the talk
    • Team player
    • Showing everyone respect
    • Positive attitude
    • Good listener.