Very few of us have attended finishing school, and today even fewer business schools offer a class on business etiquette. You are expected to handle yourself impeccably at a cocktail party, at the dinner table and in the boardrooms where you go to promote and conduct business. A working knowledge of business etiquette, often called “protocol,” can provide you with a competitive edge.

The following business etiquette power points regarding introductions, handshakes and business cards will help position you to succeed.

Introductions: Always use your first and last name (without an honorific prefix such as “Ms.” or “Dr.”) and the name of the company or firm, when making a business introduction. For example: “Good afternoon, my name is Elaine Simmons. I am with Exclusive Corporate Image.”

Introduction Power Points:

  • Remember that introductions in the business arena are based on power and precedence. Gender is irrelevant. Women and men are treated according to protocol, not chivalry.
  • Clients are considered more important than anyone in the firm, department or agency, even if the person is COO and the client is entry level.
  • Do your homework before meetings, researching the correct way to pronounce names and address clients. A formal approach is safest.
  • An appropriate response requires listening.
  • “Hi” is considered immature and unprofessional and “hello” is not enough.
  • Never ask if you may call someone by their first name. Let them say, “Please call me Ann.”
  • Stand for all introductions no matter what gender you are. The only exception is when seating makes it awkward to stand; such as in a banquette or booth. Simply say, “Please excuse me for not standing.”
  • Make eye contact with each person as you introduce them and share a little business information, such as their company name and what they do.
  • Don’t use unnecessary gestures, such as pointing.

Handshakes: The handshake is the only physical contact that is appropriate in the business arena. It is the ultimate greeting and reveals crucial messages about confidence, motivation, personality and attitude toward others.

In theUnited Statestoday, gender does not play a role. A man or woman may offer to shake hands with the client first. The person who extends a hand first has a distinct advantage.

Handshake Power Points:

  • Stand facing each other; do not stand to the side.
  • Always offer the right hand. If you are at a business meeting, always keep the left hand empty. If you are at a networking event, hold your beverage in your left hand so that your right hand will not be wet, cold, and clammy to shake.
  • Place name badges on the right shoulder area; the other person’s line of sight goes to the right when shaking hands.
  • Keep the hand in a vertical position and make sure that the web area between your thumb and index finger touches firmly the recipient’s web area. Shake from the elbow, not the shoulder or wrist. Do not pump the entire arm. Use no more than two or three pumps.

Always shake hands in the following situations: when introduced to a person, entering a room or saying goodbye; when greeted by those who are familiar or when introduced to strangers; when greeting a visitor who comes to the home or office to visit; when meeting someone outside of the home or office; when congratulating an individual who has won an award or given a speech; when leaving a gathering attended by friends or business associates; with those nearest you, the host and others you meet as you move around the room; and when consoling someone.

Business cards: Business cards are part of a full marketing package. Handing a business card to a potential client should be done in a way that allows the client to remember it. When presenting your business cards in theUnited States, use the right hand to present the card. Present the card with the print facing the client. Be sure to provide clean, current cards without handwriting (business card cases keep cards crisp). After presenting your business card, do not rush into conversation; allow the client a moment to review the card. Always present your card to the receptionist when you visit an office.

Receive a client business card with a smile, and pause to look at it. Do not write notes on the card in the client’s presence. Put the card in a business card holder or portfolio (not in a wallet or rear pocket).

Today, the personal and business demands placed on you surpass those of the past. Savvy professionals must expand client relationships, develop new clients worldwide and master techniques to distinguish themselves from their competitors. Using proper business etiquette is one way to outclass the competition!

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