Close to 100 University of South Florida students and alumni packed the spacious Traditions Hall inside the USF Alumni Center.
Most were dressed in their finest business attire and they were there for one purpose: to learn about proper protocol in the professional world.
During a full-course dinner on April 11 at a cost of $15 per person, etiquette expert Kim Goddard light-heartedly coached the group of mainly young adults on the dos and don’ts of table manners as well as the rights and wrongs of presenting oneself in one-on-one encounters with professionals and at networking events.
Goddard, the founder and principal of Proper Protocol, is a member of the National Speakers Association and travels nationwide to colleges, universities and corporations to speak on the topic of 21st Century Etiquette and Business Etiquette. In 2002 she was named the Emily Post of Tampa Bay by the Tampa Bay Magazine and in 2003 she was selected as one of the Tampa Bay’s Most Distinguished Women in Business.
She’s also a former talk show host and syndicated newspaper columnist.
“My passion is people,” said Goddard, noting she aims to eliminate the fears of those who are apprehensive about appropriately interacting with business professionals.
Prior to the dinner, Goddard instructed attendees not to sit with people they knew and to give those they met a firm handshake. She also asked them to select a host at each table.
Her first order of business was to tell them to fold their napkins in half and place them in their laps. Should they leave the table briefly they ought to put their napkins on the backs of their chairs. And at the end of the dinner they must properly place them on the sides of their plates.
“Your napkin never goes on your plate,” Goddard said.
When selecting the appropriate silverware, always start with the outside utensils and with each course work your way inward toward the plate.
Most diners seemed to grasp that protocol easily but some found it difficult to adjust to what Goddard called the “European style,” which she said is the proper way to use knives and forks in a professional environment.
“Always hold them by the pressure points in the center and turn the fork so the tines are facing toward your plate,” she said as she proceeded to calmly walk throughout the room giving an occasional friendly frown and further instructions to those who appeared to be fumbling.
She noted the person closest to the bread basket should first give it to whoever is seated to his right. Then, that individual should take a piece and offer some back to the person who gave it to him, before also passing the basket to his right.
The bread plate, she said, is properly positioned to one’s left and drinks on the right of the plate. After stirring a drink of any kind, put the spoon on a saucer if there is one. Otherwise leave it in the glass.
“Then wait for the host to start eating before you do,” Goddard said. “By all means pace yourself. When you have a big hunk of lettuce don’t just stuff it in your mouth. Put it on your fork and fold it.”
If using butter on your bread, open the packet partway at the end so it remains in one piece for the wait staff to pick up. It’s proper to tear or cut small pieces of bread at a time and butter each one prior to eating it.
She also emphasized that people should always bring the food to their faces rather than the reverse, and it’s important to bend slightly forward so if something falls off your fork it won’t land in your lap. And above all, if you happen to drop something on the floor you may push it under the table with your foot but, for “heaven’s sake,” do not pick it up and put it back on your plate.
At that point Goddard presented a tidbit of information about the proper protocol for eating the pasta on their plates that took many in the room by surprise.
“Never take a big glop from the center. Instead take a couple of pieces from the outside and twirl it on your fork,” Goddard said. “Do not suck it up!”
While folks were trying to master the art of eating pasta, their coach outlined some other points about proper protocol at networking events.
“When you enter, don’t head straight for the bar or buffet, and when you get a drink hold it in your left hand so you can shake hands with your right,” she said. “Hold red wine by the bowl of the glass and white wine and champagne by the stem.”
If you hand your business card to someone, always do it with the print facing in the direction of the recipient. Make certain it’s not rumpled or soiled.
USF graduate student Anthony Iannelli said he enjoyed the dinner and the pointers Goddard gave about proper manners.
“She had fun with it and I think it will be beneficial in the future when I’m looking for a job,” he said.
Melanine Burton, a USF junior, agreed.
“It was quite fun and I learned a few things,” Burton said.
The USF Career Center and the USF Alumni Association host similar events every semester.