August 8, 2010
Grasshopper, one day, you too will be a master.
Over 80 alumni, faculty and students attended the Arlington Campus Graduate and Professional Etiquette Dinner on March 26. The three-hour event organized by University Life involved business etiquette and protocol trainers Nancy R. Mitchell and Lawrence P. Dunham from Protocol Partners.
Based in Washington, D.C., the company’s services include protocol, cross-cultural and etiquette education; management and staffing of distinguished visitor programs, ceremonies and events; confidential protocol advice and counsel and protocol resources.
Part one of the evening was a reception, during which Mitchell and Dunham gave tips and tricks for networking and moving around a reception in order to meet new people. Tips included consciously separating yourself from any colleague accompanying you.
At the end of the reception, the hosts of 12 tables were announced and each person had to “network [his or her] way to a table.” Each table had a Mason administrator or school alumnus as the host with seating for six guests.
During the two-hour dinner, the trainers provided extensive guidance on place settings and dining etiquette for business meals. Mitchell and Dunham circulated during the dinner with microphones and answered questions about proper dining protocol. For example, they explained the differences between the American, or “zigzag,” method of eating, and the European or Continental style.
American etiquette begins with the fork in the left hand. After a piece of meat or other food is cut, the knife is placed down on the plate and the fork switched to the right hand before the food is eaten. Afterwards, the fork goes back to your left hand. In the Continental style, considered more efficient by the hosts, the fork always remains in your left hand while resting, cutting or eating, and the knife remains in your right hand to push food or while at rest.
The event allowed attendees to learn and polish their dining etiquette in order to focus less on food and more on getting to know people, networking and being sociable. Still, it was apparent that Mitchell and Dunham did want people to enjoy themselves. In addition to teaching etiquette, their message was that when one is genuine and relaxed, one can be more effective at networking and building relationships with newfound colleagues.
Silvia Villacampa, Stylus Correspondent