Etiquette dinner guides students in professional hosting skills

Zara Kulish, Staff Writer


Every year, the Career Center hosts many events to aid students in the development of networking and business skills. One of those events is the semi-annual etiquette dinner. Once a semester, etiquette expert Arden Clise comes to Saint Martin’s to present a lesson on business etiquette over dinner to students and faculty. Clise started down the path to etiquette consulting when she noticed that people got very uncomfortable in professional situations when they weren’t sure how to act. She started by advising her colleagues, as well as executives and board members on things like what to wear for a certain dress code, or how to execute a proper handshake. Soon after, she decided she wanted to start her own business but was unsure of what she wanted that business to be. Because of the enjoyment Clise experienced from helping her colleagues, she settled on etiquette consulting. Clise has a bachelor’s degree in English Literature from the University of Washington, and in addition to her consulting business, Clise is also a celebrated author. She writes an award-winning newsletter, and her new book, “Spinach in Your Boss’s Teeth: Essential Etiquette for Professional Success,” was released in 2016.

This year’s etiquette dinner was, for the first time, not preceded by President Heynderickx’s usual introductory address, as he was called away at the last minute. The evening started with an introduction by Ann Adams, director of the Career Center. The introduction was followed with a presentation by Clise on professional etiquette, especially for situations involving food, and was given during a three-course meal provided by Bon Appetit management company. The food consisted of a simple salad, followed by roasted chicken with potatoes and squash for the main course, chocolate mousse for dessert, with the option of water or iced tea to drink.

Some of the topics covered in Clise’s presentation included-how to hold utensils properly, what to do with your napkin, and how to act when you are the host of a professional meal. Some of the lessons were universal, for instance-the bread plate is always on your left, meal in the middle, and water (and other drinks) always on your right. For this, Clise used the acronym “BMW.” Other lessons, such as how to hold the utensils, would vary depending whether one was dining in the United States (American Style) or in Europe (Continental Style); Clise taught both. Guests should not eat until the host does, and the host should wait for others to be served before starting his/her food. When in a mingling situation like a reception, only hold food and drinks in your left hand, always keeping your right free to shake hands. If you arrive late, order the course everyone else is already on, and never take home your leftovers. There was also time to practice engaging those at your table in meaningful conversation.

The etiquette dinner is a valuable and educational experience, highly recommended to students of any major, but especially those in fields that rely heavily on people skills.

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