Category Archives for "Networking"

Dec 06

Office Party Etiquette Tips – What not to do at the office Christmas party

By Joanne Blake | Etiquette & Manners , Networking

Office party- HELP!Office Party Etiquette Tips - What not to do at the office Christmas party

It is that time of year again .

With the Christmas season upon us, CBC Edmonton AM radio show called me for some help and advice on how to avoid embarrassment at these unavoidable gatherings.

Here are some helpful tips and a link to the full article in CBC News entitled – Common sense is not always that common: What not to do at the office Christmas party

Business first, party second 

Getting tipsy with your boss and colleagues is filled with pitfalls. It’s important to recognize that it is business first, social second. People forget that and think, “Oh, it’s a party, I can let my hair down, wear my sexiest outfit, drink at company expense and flirt with that cute guy or gal  in payroll.

Naughty or nice?

Though it can be tempting to let loose, your naughty behaviour will be remembered by all, including the boss. Especially if you’re in a sales or client facing role, the people at the top will be observing how you interact and assume that behaviour will be taken externally.

Mix and mingle

Try to avoid “shop talk”  especially if you have spouses or partners attending. Focus the conversation on people’s lives and interests. Keep it light and ask lots of questions. Don’t be exclusive. Be sure to mingle with clients and co-workers outside your department.

Taboo subjects

We’re all human so at the end of the day we’ll vent about so and so.  It can be bad manners even when we never expect it to go anywhere. Under the influence of alcohol, the Christmas Office party isn’t the place to do it.

Ugly Christmas sweaters?

What you wear at the office Christmas party says a lot about you. Take it up a notch. Especially if clients are attending, unless it’s part of the theme, leave your ugly Christmas sweaters at home.

Last man standing

It can be bad manners to arrive too early (unless you want to help setup) and you never want to be the last man (or woman) standing. Arrive fashionably late and leave before the party starts to fade.

Have fun and use your etiquette common sense but remember, common sense is not always that common.”

Click here for the complete article on Canada’s CBC News: What not to do at the office Christmas party

Posted by Joanne Blake – the Canadian business etiquette expert and well-mannered party gal
Apr 26

How’s your eye contact? Do you come across as rude?

By Joanne Blake | Etiquette & Manners , Networking


What to do about no eye contactHow's your eye contact? Do you come across as rude?

Ever feel like the invisible man or invisible woman?

At a recent Canadian engineering conference, participants were asked to share a frustrating situation in communicating across the generations and discuss ways to bridge the gap.

Don’t dis me

One engineer who happened to be from the boomer generation shared how lack of eye contact and lack of acknowledgment drives him nuts. He often has to submit plans to the city and he feels that their front desk personnel, who are for the most part millennials don’t know business etiquette and are downright rude.

Screening your calls?

We asked him for a specific example. He said, when he approaches the desk, they seldom acknowledge him by saying hello or stop what they’re doing to make eye contact. Instead, with eyes glued to their monitors they ask how they can help, all the while looking at their screens.

I’m a human being!

When we asked how he’s dealt with this situation in the past he said that he just glares at them or shouts at them “Hey, over here, I’m a human being!” Yikes! Two wrongs don’t make a right.

Not just millennials

The simple etiquette of acknowledging others is falling by the wayside and our reliance on technology is largely to blame. Most of us have suffered indifferent service provided by people from all generations, not just millennials. Sometimes we need to teach people, how to treat us.

Silent solution

As a group we brainstormed some possible solutions. The best advice I heard was to simply stand there in silence and wait until the person serving us looks up. When they finally do look up, give them an enthusiastic greeting and warm smile. Another tip is to underline it by commenting, “How refreshing it is to have someone make eye contact”.

Live longer and prosper

So rather than mirroring or compounding their bad behaviour, we model the behaviour we expect to receive. It may not work 100% of the time, but at least it will keep our blood from boiling and we’ll live longer. Most perceived acts of bad manners or rudeness are often unintentional. People don’t know what they don’t know. And if you are in a face2face situation, our advice is to look up from your screens.

Posted by Joanne Blake – the Canadian business etiquette expert and good eye contactor
Feb 12

Is Connectivity Killing Conversation?

By Joanne Blake | Dining , Etiquette & Manners , Networking

Parents Beware: Technology is Impairing Social Skills

This past month I have been to a few conference dinners Family at table all with deviceswhere I have been seated with many young professionals – most of them under 30. Conversation is often fragmented because of interrupting each other by sharing neat stuff on their phones, snapping pictures of the food, entertainment and taking selfies.

An alarming trend

This certainly illustrates the alarming trend that I heard MIT professor Sherry Turkle, talk about in her new book Reclaiming Conversation – The Power of Talk in a Digital Age on CBC radio. (Click here to listen to the interview.)

Connection not the same as conversation

She pointed out the irony that our connectivity is damaging our relationships with each other. While we’re highly connected, connection is not the same as conversation.

Parents beware

Sherry Turkle is making a call to put down the phone and talk. More importantly, talk to our children.

She highlighted the effects of technology on rendering our children unable to converse. She referenced comedian Louis CK’s rant on cell phones and children. Because of all this online activity if we don’t make direct eye contact when we talk to kids, they fail to learn these basic social skills and their development suffers.

Put down the phone and talk

She described a significant empathy gap, which starts to show up in grade school.  Kids can’t talk or respond to each other.  By the time they reach college there is a 40% decline in markers for empathy.

Compounding the problem

While we often blame the kids for being uncommunicative, Sherry Turkle insists that parents are largely responsible for children’s anti-conversation behaviors. We’re constantly multi-tasking, checking emails while putting children to bed, texting while giving baths instead of talking to them, texting at dinner and so on. Then we worsen the problem by giving them screens at an early age instead of engaging with them.

What can we do?

Here are Sherry’s tips to reclaim conversation and help our kids:

  • Create sacred spaces – technology is not to be used in the car, kitchen, dining room or the classroom (I would add the restaurant table)
  • Don’t use your phone as your alarm clock, it’s too easy to get sidetracked. Put it away from the bed & use a old school alarm clock.
  • Make an extra effort to have face-to-face conversations and look people in the eye
  • Parents need to model the type of behavior they want their children to embrace
  • Talk, read and make eye contact with your children so your kids learn how to give and respond to facial cues and emotions.
  • Schools need to be cautious about giving up their libraries and accepting donations of tablets from organizations.
  • College classrooms are beginning to rethink phones and laptops in the lecture halls.
  • In business, conversation is good for the bottom line – workers do more, collaborate more and have greater productivity and creativity when they are given both privacy and an opportunity for conversation

I’m reminded of a great quote I once read: “Children are natural mimics who act like their parents despite every effort to teach them good manners.” – Author unknown

Like Ms. Turkle, we’re not anti- technology but pro-conversation. We’re doing our best to equip business people both young and old with the skills to communicate. Thankfully many adults who have taken our networking courses are sending their kids to our children’s social skills course. Let’s all lead by example.

Click here to hear the Canadian Broadcasting Company interview with Sherry Turkle.
Click here to listen to Lewis CK’s cellphone rant.

Posted by Joanne Blake – Canadian business social skills expert and conversation initiator
Dec 10

Holiday Party Mixing and Mingling Tips

By Joanne Blake | Dining , Dress & Image , Etiquette & Manners , Networking

What to wear, what to say and what not to do.

It’s that time of year again
This is the time of year when many of us receive invitations to office Christmas, holiday parties and client appreciation events. Sounds like fun… but not for all of us. Many of us stress about what to wear, what to say, and how to behave.

Tips on How to Dress

The invitation should give us some clues. Women in particular have so many choices but we have to remember that it’s business first and party second. If the event is scheduled right after work, it’s safe to assume that we can wear our office attire, but we can add some sparkle and flair. Women can change their shoes, add a bit of bling and embellish their make-up. Guys can add a festive tie, shave that five o’clock shadow and put on a fresh shirt.

Conversation Tips

Fear Not
One the biggest fears that most of us face when attending events is fear of talking to strangers. It’s human nature to want to stay talking with people that we know well and are comfortable with. While it’s certainly important to re-connect with people we know, it’s equally  important to grow your network and meet people outside your immediate circle.

Talk Like a Host
The advice that we give in our networking seminars to help overcome shyness is to move from guest to host behaviour. Pretend that you are hosting the event, go up to people standing on their own and introduce yourself. Engage in some small talk to discover what you have in common. An amazing thing happens when you work at making others feel relaxed and at ease; you experience more ease and comfort yourself. As a bonus, this contributes to the success of the event.

Tips for Joining Conversations
Many of us feel uncomfortable making an attempt to join a group already engaged in conversation. Part of the problem lies with our approach. We have to learn to read body language. If the group is close knit and they’re huddled together  it may not be the best group to approach. However, if when we walk towards a group someone makes eye contact and offers a warm smile it’s safe to join them. You can ask a rhetorical question if you hear what they are talking about or make a comment such as, “this group looks like you’re having a lot of fun, do you mind if I join you”.

Etiquette Tips

Drinks On Me
Drinking is often a part of holiday and Christmas celebrations. For liability and safety reasons many company parties are going  booze free. When it comes to alcohol remember your image, brand and career can be impacted. It’s important to know your limits and moderation is key.

Grab the grub
Isn’t it surprising how many people walk around at functions with their plates piled to the sky like it was their last supper. Hors d’oeuvres means appetizers and are not meant to replace your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eat as if your company pays you well enough to do so on a regular basis.

Bonus holiday party tip to avoid the flu

Healthy holidays
Eat the appetizers with your left hand (if your religion and culture permits it). The benefits are twofold. 1 Your handshake will be less sticky. 2  You will consume less germs from shaking hands with all your new acquaintances.

Have fun and make a great impression at all the holiday parties you attend!

For more Holiday Party Advice see our Resource sheet Tips to Survive the Office Holiday Party.pdf 

Posted by Joanne Blake – the Canadian business etiquette expert and and left handed eater
Aug 28

How to Turn a Temporary Job into a Full-time Position

By Joanne Blake | Etiquette & Manners , Networking


Tempt a full-time job out of a temporary 


Parlay a Temp Job into a Full-time Position

These days temps are not just entry-level positions but are now higher-level such as engineers and even interim managers.

In this tight job market almost anyone can be offered temporary work. Many companies are using temporary staffing at all levels to get them through the downturn.

There are a lot of reasons why you should consider a temp job beyond just being able to pay your monthly bills.

Our advice is – take the temporary position

A great reason to accept a temp is that with the right hard skills and soft skills a temporary position can often be parlayed into a full-time job or career. It gives the company a chance to get to know you and see if there’s a fit. Also it gives you a chance to see if the company fits with you.

Networking temp tip

Don’t think there’s no point in building relationships just because you’re not going to be there for long. Pay attention to your dress, manners and networking skills and build relationships. In our networking training we often say If you build relationships, the business will come. In a temp position if you build relationships the position will come.

Someone may not come back from maternity leave or if you’ve made a good impression they may see if they can create a position for you.

How to be referred on

If they aren’t able to offer you a full-time position don’t burn any bridges. We’ve heard from HR and managers where they have recommended a temporary worker whose work, attitude and soft skills they admired. Through their networks they’re often aware of colleagues in other companies who are looking for someone to fill the same sort of position.

Advice on an exit plan

If you’ve made a good impression and built relationships make sure to leave on good terms. Follow up with a letter or note to keep top of mind. Just say how much you enjoyed working with the company and don’t be afraid to ask if they can keep their ears open for anyone looking for someone like you.

Keys to the kingdom?

Your temporary job could make you a leader. With the boomers winding down their careers, succession planning is top of mind with most companies. Leaders are looking for their next generation of leaders.

That could be you!
Displaying that you’re good at your job and have great soft skills won’t go unnoticed. You might be surprised where that temp position takes you.

Posted by Joanne Blake – the Canadian business etiquette expert and executive coach
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