Preparing our students for life beyond Trafalgar means not only offering them the highest education but also ensuring they’re set up for success in all aspects of their life including social and professional settings.
Before leaving the Castle, Grade 12 students received a crash course on etiquette with Leanne Pepper, general manager at the University of Toronto’s Faculty Club. “Etiquette isn’t just about the dining room table, it’s about being aware of your surroundings and putting people at ease,” she says.
Leanne, who’s also an etiquette and protocol consultant at the Protocol School of Washington, shared proper etiquette skills for business and virtual engagements as we all adjust to our new online world.
“The first impression is a lasting impression,” she says to the Grade 12 class. “You have five seconds to make that impression.” In order to make the best first impression, Leanne’s top tips include replying to the meeting or event in a timely manner, arriving on time, putting your phone on silent and ensuring you look presentable.
Once you’ve achieved that, Leanne says, “Your chances of getting a job, keeping a job and advancing your career is based on 85 per cent people skills.” To do this, be approachable and gravitate towards the centre of the room in networking situations. “That’s where the most important people are,” she says. “Make eye contact, smile, introduce yourself and even invite others into the conversation so that you become a connector.”
To ensure there’s never an awkward lull in conversation, Leanne suggests doing your research before the job interview, meeting or event. Learn about the company hosting the event or the guests that are attending and listen to the news so you’re on top of current affairs. “I also think about open-ended questions in advance that I can ask people so I feel more confident,” Leanne says. Being prepared in this way also helps to make sure topics that shouldn’t be brought up are avoided like politics, religion, gossip or anything controversial. “Keep conversation light, positive and upbeat,” she adds.
While it may be awhile before in-person meetings or events take place again, Leanne says the same tips can be applied for virtual meetings. “Arrive on time, look presentable and don’t check your phone just like you would for an in-person meeting,” she says. Leanne also recommends changing your virtual background to an image of books or a library setting so it looks more professional and no one can see your potentially messy room. Body language also speaks volumes she says, so sit tall, don’t lean your head on your hand and make sure you’re sitting in the middle of the screen. “Zoom isn’t the mirror so don’t fix your hair or clothes while on camera either,” she adds.
If all of these etiquette tips feel overwhelming, Leanne reminds us that, “75 per cent of the general population have social anxiety so you’re not alone.” Instead, Leanne suggests we all focus on being in the moment and not on being worried.