Things to Learn Early: banquet etiquette

After attending a recent conference banquet, it is painfully obvious that in the era of cell phones, banquet decorum is on the decline. Regardless of age, in fact, some of the worst offenders at the banquet were older adults. If you or your job is really that important that you can’t take two hours away from your phone, then you probably shouldn’t be attending the banquet in the first place.

Banquets are an inevitability in the professional world. Whether it’s to honor your co-workers for several years of service or to at the end of a conference in a far away city, you can’t avoid attending banquets. Treating the event like you would a wedding it a great start. Good manners and proper etiquette with leave a lasting positive impression with your table mates.

Some observations:

  • Introduce those around you to each other. Make small talk.
  • Avoid polarizing topics (religion, politics, etc.)
  • If you are over the age of 10, games of distraction (hangman, bejeweled, Words With Friends etc.) are not appropriate to play on your phone or the back of the program.
  • Sending a quick tweet or text of congratulations is great, but staring at your phone through the entire banquet is rude.
  • If you can’t pay attention or pretend to pay attention, don’t go.
  • Be happy for all recipients. Applaud. Wouldn’t you want the audience to do the same for you?
  • If you must talk to your neighbor, wait for applause, talk quickly then.
  • Try not to yawn.

Have you attended a banquet recently, how did attendees behave?

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Not just anybody!

Now that we’ve established asking for help is important, let me delve into how not to ask for help. I strongly believe it is all in the approach and word choice.

Asking nicely is beyond just saying please and thank you. It is using an appropriate tone and not talking down to the person. Remember you are asking for their help and you should do so in a way that makes them WANT to help you.

I often get asked to redo and change things, which I am happy to do and not just because it is part of my job or because the client asked for it. When some people ask it is polite and with direction, others a completely different story.

Sometimes, I leave a conversation in which I am rudely directed to make changes feeling angry. The person speaks as if what I had initially done wasn’t good enough. It probably wasn’t, but there is no need to treat me that way. Abrasiveness is never respectful and always comes across as just plain mean. I find myself dreading working on their project and the energy is dead.

Others, who are more gentle and persuasive in their wording and tone, makes me feel excited and like we’re on the same page. I can’t wait to work on their project.

How do you handle abrasive requests?