GUEST POST by Kathy O'Brien, JaffePR: Stop drinking out of my water glass!

Table etiquette makes a critical first impression, so here is a quick lesson on how to navigate the tableware at a business luncheon.

Kathy O'Brien

***After you read this post, be sure to visit me at my new                                       home here.***

My colleague Terry Isner and I attended the PR News Platinum Awards ceremony in New York City earlier this week and were proud to take away an Honorable Mention win in the media relations category – a category that included PR teams representing Dunkin’ Donuts, Hormel Foods and Samsung, among others. This is the event of the season for the international PR community and it’s a great chance to network and rub elbows with the who’s who in the industry at a high-powered luncheon.

As is customary with these types of soirées, and many other law firm networking luncheons, social events, retreats and legal award ceremonies, the tables were already set to save time and limit interruptions from the wait staff during the presentations.

As a result, it looked like a dishwasher exploded onto the table in a confusing array of plates and glassware. It was difficult to tell which set-up belonged to whom. And that led to the incident: My tablemate mistakenly sipped out of my water glass.

Not the worst mistake in the world, but it was embarrassing. Table etiquette makes a critical first impression, so here is a quick lesson on how to successfully navigate the tableware at a business luncheon or legal networking event:

  • The setup – A standard banquet setup includes forks to the left of the plate, and knives, spoons and special service items to the right. The water glass is always above the knife on the right. Other glassware – red wine and white wine glasses – are always to the right of the water glass. The bread plate and bread knife are above the fork on the left. If you see a broad-blade knife with your setup, fish is mostly on the menu – a fish knife is a spatula-like knife used for separating fish from its skin and dividing it into manageable pieces that are easy to eat.

  • Service – Food is always served from the left, cleared from the right. If there is a basket of bread to be passed around the table, it is passed from left to right. Salt and pepper should be passed together, even if your tablemate only asks for the salt, for example.

  • At the end of the meal – Place your utensils at the 4 o’clock position on your plate. This is a signal to the waiter that you are finished and your plates can be cleared. Do not stack plates or place napkins on top of dishes and push the items away.

So, keep your napkin out of your collar and in your lap, and follow these simple rules on how to properly navigate a tablescape. You can focus on the conversation, close that deal and forever eliminate any table manner faux pas, including drinking out of my water glass.

Kathy is an award-winning publicist who brings nearly two decades of experience encompassing both corporate and agency work to Jaffe PR. Having been an in-house marketer and a publicist with agencies in New York and Connecticut, she appreciates both sides of the public reputation curve – as the client at the top, and the service provider helping customers get there. Kathy understands PR challenges and helps clients develop realistic and results-oriented solutions by applying agency and in-house expertise to achieving their goals.
Through the years, Kathy has developed an extensive network of media contacts and knows what will play with the press.  Her breadth of skill in writing, researching and developing story ideas, combined with her crisis communications skills, makes her a vital asset. Her clients have been covered by the Wall Street JournalNew York Times,Los Angeles TimesBusinessWeek, CNN, ABC, NBC and other major media. 

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