LC Bulletin: Aggies go to class: Manners 101

April 20, 2012. Retrieved online April 24, 2012 from Adam R. Baca, Las Cruces Bulletin

Students practice tabletop etiquette in professional setting

On April 12, many Aggies took the opportunity to brush up on or learn some new business dinner etiquette skills.

The Aggie Manners Business Etiquette Dinner, sponsored by Career Services at New Mexico State University, was held in a ballroom on the third floor of Corbett Center at NMSU. Students and faculty from all over the campus attended to make sure they don’t break any business dinner rules in the future.

“(It’s) a good opportunity to learn, have a nice meal and meet new people,” NMSU student Daniel Sonntag said. “I think it’s important for our generation to know business etiquette.”

Sonntag described his business dinner etiquette as “average” before the presentation.

“I don’t know what kind of scale I would use for manners,” he said.

The main purpose for the dinner was to show people proper dining etiquette if they interview for a job over dinner or are in a professional situation over dinner or lunch.

Maria Samaniego, a faculty member at NMSU, said she attends various business dinners, meetings as well as luncheons and it was important to her to know how to eat properly. “We just want to make sure that we represent NMSU properly,” Samaniego said.

People walked in to find tables set up with various plates and utensils. Some may have known already exactly what to do with the multiple forks and spoons upon entry, but the others were about to find out.

Once everyone took their seats, and possibly unintentionally broke some etiquette rules, Sonia Zubiate took the stage for her presentation on business dinner etiquette. Zubiate is an etiquette coach and is founder and director of The Protocol Academy.

On stage, Zubiate had her own table setting under the watchful eye of a video camera. A screen on the wall projected the video feed so everyone in the ballroom could see what exactly she was doing with her utensils, napkins, plates and glasses.

Zubiate gave an introduction and tips on attire for events that may require the skills presented.

“You will need these skills,” Zubiate said. “You’re there to put your best foot forward.”

Everyone was then served salad as the first part of the four-course meal. The following courses were cream of tomato basil soup, chicken piccata and strawberry cheesecake for dessert. Vegetarians were served stuffed portabella mushroom instead of the chicken.

Before each course, Zubiate explained how to eat it, and gave proper etiquette rules. Once her explanation was through, she walked around while everyone practiced. Zubiate answered various questions from the crowd.

“It’s all about how you handle everything,” Zubiate said, rattling off advice.

Make sure you spoon your soup away from you, and don’t slurp it from the bowl. Don’t saw at food you are trying to cut, use smooth strokes one way. Your drink is on the right side; don’t take the drink on the left.

“Once one person does that, everything is off,” Zubiate said.

Correct utensil usage was one of the big lessons of the night. Attendees were taught how to properly eat in the American fashion as well as the Continental style, which is more for international usage. She taught proper placement of hands and utensils.

“When you look at your plate, think of it as a clock,” Zubiate said.

When finished with a plate, a diner should place utensils together and at an angle that would read 10:20 if it were a clock.

There is even proper etiquette for putting lemon and sugar into your water or tea.

“You don’t want to squirt juice at your interviewer,”Zubiate said. Those attending offered some intriguing questions.

It is not OK to ask for a doggy bag at a business dinner.

Even if the food is something the interviewee is not sure of or doesn’t like, it should still be tasted.

“That wouldn’t be very polite,” Zubiate said.

If ever served crusty bread, it should be left alone. Exploding bread crust does not make a good impression.

When it comes to eating a garnish, such as the basil leaf in the soup, it should also be left alone.

“It could get stuck in your teeth,” Zubiate said, which was possibly too late for some.

Zubiate also gave pointers on seating someone and shaking a hand. “Dead-fish” handshakes and “bone-crusher” handshakes are not OK.

Boris Higgins, an instructor and student at NMSU, said the presentation “cleared up some uncertainties.”

It was the second time attending for NMSU student Christopher Gomez.

“It’s really good info,” Gomez said.

After the dinner presentation many of those who attended were positive in the new skills acquired and ready to use them.

“You just never know when we might go to the White House,” Samaniego said. “We’re ready.”

“It impresses your employer if you know how to use the right fork,” said Liz Vazquez, a career research coordinator for NMSU Career Services. “It shows how you value yourself in a professional setting.”

Vazquez, who had an internship for the Department of State, said she attended a lot of events with diplomats from all over the world, and it was important to know these table skills.

“It also shows that you’re cultured,” she said.

“It’s an Aggie tradition that has been going on for years and years,” said Roseanne Bensley, associate director for Career Services at NMSU.

Read the Las Cruces Bulletin article

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