Students brush up on etiquette

Adam Milasincic

Over candlelight and shrimp cocktail, 36 Kent State students learned manners worthy of a 19th century finishing school.

Among the choice pointers last night was this advice from corporate trainer Danielle Turcola: “There’s nothing very attractive about trying to make a sales call and then chewing on your skin.”

In the world of business etiquette, nailbiting is a mortal sin. Turcola issued the other commandments of proper dining during a two-hour dinner presentation at the Student Center for sequin-shirted ladies and tie-clad gentlemen.

Do not use cloth napkins as handkerchiefs, never pass pepper shakers with a hand on the cap and don’t be caught dead holding red wine glasses by the stem, which is for white wine only, Turcola said.

The most common error is less obvious. Too many diners slather an entire slice of bread with butter and then fold it like a hotdog bun. The correct way to butter bread is one morsel at a time.

“You want to break off a piece about the size of a walnut,” Turcola said. “Then pop that into your mouth.”

The rules came faster than the meal as many students scrawled notes in between bites of hearts of lettuce salad. Turcola paused at the table of Sarah Simpson, a freshman interior design major who attended the dinner, to note that Simpson, who is left-handed, should nonetheless place her water goblet to the right of her plate.

“It’s a lot to remember,” Simpson said. “Hopefully I don’t have to do this for a long time.”

Turcola offered a seven-page packet of additional “do-nots,” but coupled them with her list of “five under $50” beatitudes.

Before any job interview or high-stakes meal, a small bit of money can go a long way, Turcola said.

She recommends:

• a freshly ironed shirt

• manicured nails for men and women alike

• a shoe shine

• white teeth

• a haircut, especially for women whose locks are beyond shoulder length.

“Men see long hair one of two ways,” Turcola said. “It’s either as their little girl or in a romantic vein on the pillow next to them. That’s not sexist because it’s based on 16 years of research.”

Turcola, whose list of clients includes business giants like Hewlett-Packard and Nationwide Insurance, brought her tips to campus compliments of the Center for Student Involvement. The center has sponsored a similar dinner every semester for six years, according to Associate Director Ann Gosky.

“What we were hearing from students and their prospective employers is that (business etiquette) was a skill that people needed as they entered the workforce,” Gosky said. “We heard from students that very often as part of the interview process they would have to go on luncheons or dinners, and they were pretty uncomfortable with that because many had been eating in university cafeterias for a while.”

Complete with appetizer forks and a four-course spread, the dinner mimicked this type of interview for a crowd composed mainly of graduate students and participants in the Kent State Alumni Association’s student “extern” program.

When students place their napkins on their laps for a real-world interview, they’ll be well-served by their crash course in proper manners, Turcola said.

“There are so many rules to remember,” she said. “Does it matter? You bet it does.”

Contact alumni affairs reporter Adam Milasincic at [email protected]