Students practise table manners at Etiquette Dinner

These days, many professional relationships are forged over dinner. You may be meeting an employer for a second interview, networking with colleagues at a formal event or going out for a coffee with a new contact. If you don’t know proper eating etiquette, your relationship could be short-lived.

Left: Etiquette on the menu

To give students confidence at conducting themselves properly at the table, the Career Centre hosted, the Etiquette Dinner on Feb. 28 which was sponsored by the Alumni Office. The "eat and learn" event gave students a chance to practise the dinner skills they will need so that they can concentrate on their conversations rather than worrying about their cutlery.

During the Etiquette Dinner, Lisa Wright, co-founder of The Etiquette Advantage program, led students through dining protocol course by course and gave them tips on dealing with unique (and sometimes embarrassing) dining situations. 

Many students who attended lacked confidence to conduct themselves appropriately in dining situations. Mehvish Mamoon, a fourth-year psychology student, said, "I used to back out of meetings with professors because I was afraid I wouldn’t know what to do in a formal dining setting. Now I have the confidence to sit at a table and not stress out about which fork or glass to use."

Other students simply hadn’t experienced a formal dinner and wanted an opportunity to practise their best behaviour. Peter Hajdasz, a fourth-year student in communications studies, said, "I’m used to eating in casual situations with my friends. I realize my eating habits are pretty bad. When I eat, I eat. Now that I know, I’ll use this information in the appropriate settings."

Right: Etiquette expert Lisa Wright chats with a student at practice dinner

In addition to getting pointers such as working from the outside in when using cutlery, taking small bites of food, and pacing yourself with the host, students learned that dining etiquette is not about the food, it’s about the interactions and relationship-building that take place in a social setting.

James Hwang, a fourth-year accounting student, said, "I’m going to practise what I’ve learned at the next accounting club dinner and this time I’ll actually be able to pay attention to the people around me and not worry about what I’m doing!"

This story was submitted to YFile by Julie Rahmer, manager, communications & Web services, Career Centre.