You're holding a glass in one hand and finger food in the other when your CEO offers a handshake. So what do you do - eat fast, try juggling, hide?
The answer: none of the above. Successful business people should keep one hand free at all times to avoid any career-crippling social blunder.Ninety-two DePaul University students practiced coping with such corporate etiquette dilemmas that can send laughter through the driest of cocktail hours and spoil the rarest of steak dinners.
The school hosted an etiquette dinner recently at the ritzy Drake Hotel to help the students, many of them graduating seniors, prepare for business lunches and dinners.
The dinner, which cost the students $25 each, was a challenge in itself. The main course was swordfish, posing the problem of disposing of bones.
"Dessert is a chocolate-glazed pear that is almost impossible to cut into," said Jane A. McGrath, DePaul's director of career planning and placement.
"We chose the menu with difficulty in mind to give students experience in situations they may not have considered," he said.
Competition for jobs is fierce and "the little things" can make the students stand out, McGrath said.
DePaul career counselor Liz Ostrowski advised the students to avoid discussing argument-provoking subjects like war and religion during business socials.
Steve Thompson, the Drake's catering director cautioned: "If you spill (at the dinner table), don't jump up and say, `Oh, my gosh! What's going to happen?' No, be calm and collected."
A guidebook distributed at the dinner warns of these fatal flaws:
- One drink too many.
- Wearing a T-shirt or jeans at a suit-and-tie event.
- Moving around the room while holding a cigarette or a cigar.
- Wearing a low-cut, revealing or unfashionably tight dress to a business function.
- Overloading a plate and returning to the buffet table too often.
Students even learned how to handle a sleaze.
"Extricate yourself . . . quickly," the guidebook said. "Try to be polite, but remember that a sleaze isn't terribly sensitive to the difference between polite and impolite. The most important thing is to get away."