Basic Dining Etiquette – Getting Seated

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 74,200
    Nancy Mitchell of The Etiquette Advocate explains what to do between arriving at an event and sitting down at the table.

    Nancy Mitchell

    Nancy R. Mitchell is an established protocol and etiquette consultant and advisor with more than 30 years of experience in the field. Currently, she is an adjunct faculty member at George Washington University, where she developed and teaches protocol courses to Event Management Certificate Program students in the School of Business and Public Management, and at Stratford University, Falls Church, VA. She serves also as protocol and special events consultant to the Library of Congress, the world’s largest library and cultural center. For 23 years, Mitchell was Director of Special Events and Public Programs at the Library of Congress where she and her staff were responsible for planning and managing over 400 events each year. She coordinated the institution’s major special events, visits of heads of state and other foreign dignitaries, fundraising galas, conferences and meetings. As the Library’s chief protocol advisor, she served as liaison to the White House, U.S Department of State, the Congress, the Supreme Court and other government agencies, foreign embassies, academia and corporations. Mitchell owns The Etiquette Advocate, Inc., a firm providing etiquette and protocol training to corporations, universities, embassies, government agencies, non-profit organizations and individuals. She is the etiquette consultant to Engaged! magazine, has been featured on Good Morning America, Fox 5 News, WTOP Radio and National Public Radio, and is quoted on matters of etiquette and protocol by the New York Times, Washington Business Journal, and the Washington Post. She is a co-owner of the firm, Protocol Partners-Washington Center for Protocol, Inc., and is a member of the Protocol and Diplomacy International Protocol Officers Association and the Women Business Owners of Montgomery Country (MD).

    Nancy Mitchell: Hi, I am Nancy Mitchell, with the Etiquette Advocate and today we are talking about dining etiquette. We are going to get you ready to attend an event. You have arrived at the event, what do you do? I am going to walk you through some of the steps that will help you to be comfortable when you arrive. Never, never skip the check-in process, there is a registration table, there is a process, people have set something up for you, they want you to participate in the check-in. Go to the registration table; pick up a name tag, always wear name tag high and on the right side. The reasoning behind that is, when you shake hands with somebody and you are meeting, greeting, you want to reach out, you want to be able to have your eye go right up their arm, catch their name high and on the right side and then go right to their face and make eye contact. Thats the way that you connect with someone, so remember, a name tag is high in on the right side, if you skip that registration process, you are not going to have that name tag.

    Another thing that you are going to be receiving, when you are checking in is your table assignment. Since, we are talking about dining etiquette today there is probably a seating arrangement. If you decide that there is a long line at that registration table and you are going to kind of walk around it and go to the bar, do whatever you want to do, you are going to miss this whole procedure. You will see an envelope that has your name on it, it will tell you exactly, what table you are seated at, dont skip this process. When the cocktail period is over, the bell is rung; you will not know where to go to sit down. Play by the rules, be a team player, go through the registration process. Let say the cocktail period is over, its time to move into the tables. You now know are assigned table 22, you move toward 22, you find a place card; there will be a place card at your table. You find your seat and you are going to stand behind your chair. The reason why we do this is, you want to have the opportunity to meet and greet as many people as you can at your table before sitting down. So, Ill stand behind my chair, when others join me at table, I will extend my hand and introduce myself to someone on my left and to my right and I will wait until there are four or five people at my table before I sit down.

    Once I have sat down, I want to make sure that I talk to people on my left and my right. It is a very rude to talk only to the person you have come with to the event and to ignore other people at the table. Gentlemen, if you are attending a social event, it is good manners to pull the chair out for the woman to your right, help her to get into her seat. If you notice that the woman on your left is having trouble or there is no one assisting her with her chair, do the same there. In business settings, that is not required, everyone seats themselves. When you do take your place at the table, please do not place any personal items on the table, you dont place a cell phone, a blackberry, a portfolio, a handbag. You take your seat and all of your personal belongings go under the chair. These are tips about what to do before you sit down, next we will be talking about what are some of the dos and dont dos when you have taken your seat.