Best in Class: Etiquette and People Skills for Your Career

Business - Marketing

60 minutes

Test your business etiquette awareness and avoid the Seven Deadly Sins of 21st Century Business Behavior with business etiquette expert Lynne Breil, CSP.

People skills, such as business etiquette, support employee relationships amongst professional peers and the general public. The most sought-after people skills include business etiquette, professionalism, written and oral communication, interpersonal, and leadership.

Join Lynne for this essential webinar where she explains why these people skills are vital for your business and how they help your company stand out above the competition.

Attendees will learn

  • How to make a strong first impression
  • The skills for effective small talk and listening
  • The importance and components of professional presence
  • How to improve communication skills in meetings, on the phone, and e-mails

Who should attend

  • Corporate/organizational trainers and facilitators
  • Independent consultants
  • Managers responsible for training


Lynne Breil, CSP*, is a “Manners Maven” and has been dubbed “the Joan Rivers of business etiquette.” Her audiences laugh as much as they learn! She is the founder of The Professional Edge, Inc. and a Professor of Communications at York College of Pennsylvania. She’s the author of 2 etiquette books: Share a Meal. Close a Deal. Business Dining from A-Z. (2015) and Best in Class: Etiquette and People Skills for Your Career (2018). A former Miss America Semi-Finalist, Lynne is a trained concert pianist and an avid golfer.

*The Certified Speaking Professional (CSP) designation, conferred by the National Speakers Association and the International Federation for Professional Speakers, is the speaking profession’s international measure of professional platform skill. It is held by less than 800 people worldwide.

Watch the video

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Sara Lindmont: Hi everyone, and welcome to today’s webinar, Best in Class: Etiquette and People Skills for Your Career hosted by HRDQU and presented by Lynne Breil. My name is Sara and I will moderate today’s webinar. The webinar will last about an hour. If you have any questions, go ahead and send those into us and we’ll answer those as we go along, I’m behind the scenes, I’ll be here answering any technical questions, then we’ll have some time at the end for Lynne to answer some content questions. So go ahead and send those in. You want to use your questions box on the control panel, it may say chat, but there’s a white space there type your message in, click send, that’ll come right over to us. You can send those as the session goes on or at the end we’ll also remind you to send in any questions that you might have.

Sara Lindmont: Our presenter today is Lynne Breil. Lynne is the founder and CEO of the Professional Edge, Inc. A go to resource for people skills training in the workplace and that includes business etiquette, oral communication, leadership development and professional image. Lynne started her company over 25 years ago, teaching troops, girl scout troops that is. Little did she know that would lead to a professional speaking career that has taken her across the US and Europe. She’s delivered programs to corporations, government groups, nonprofit agencies and colleges.

Sara Lindmont: She’s even taught student athletes at Villanova University, dining etiquette skills. Lynne’s book, Best in Class is our featured publication today and the topic of our webinar. In it, she writes about the seven deadly sins of 21st century business behavior. She is also the author of the upcoming book, Making the Grade: Presentation Skills From Classroom to Conference Room. Here to help you avoid committing any of those deadly sins is the prognosticator of people skills and a manners maven in her own right, Lynne Breil.

Lynne Breil: Thank you Sara. It’s my pleasure to be the manners maven for the moment and thank you all for joining this webinar. Now about 25 years ago when I started talking about business etiquette, there was one book I could find that was on the market that expressly talked about executive manners, Letitia Baldrige wrote that book in 1995. And in it she mentions that there are three criteria for deciding, okay, what is the best thing to do? What is the most appropriate thing to do in a business etiquette situation? And she said that it’s based on three things. And when I say she said, she said, “Business behavior is based on three things. Number one, it’s based on kindness. Number two, efficiency. And number three, logic.” So if we had a fire drill right now and it was time for everybody to leave, you’ve already heard the foundation of what I’m going to tell you.

Lynne Breil: So if you’re wondering really what is the best thing to do in a situation where we’re faced with what do I do? And what’s the best behavior? Ask yourself, okay, what’s the most kind thing to do? What’s the most efficient thing to do? And what makes the most sense? So today I am going to talk about people skills and professional presence followed by business etiquette sins of the 21st century. And when I hear people that I talk to in sessions that I deliver mentioned to me their pet peeves, these are the things that come to the forefront. I’ve listed them on the agenda and I will present each one of these to you and talk a little bit about it. Everything from body language, blunders, to dirty dining.

Lynne Breil: But I do want to say that this whole topic of people skills, it’s not new. As a matter of fact, there was a publication in 1918 by Charles Mann and you’re looking at a picture of that very publication, A Study of Engineering Education. And in that publication, Mr. Mann refers to a
study where he asked 30,000 members in large engineering firms to number the six qualities needed for top engineers. In other words, what
did they think were the personal qualities more important than knowledge of engineering science? Or if you use engineering science, where would it fall in that list?

Lynne Breil: And you’re looking at those top six skills. And if you look at them closely, you’ll notice that the top four are congruent with what we call people skills. So what have we done with this information that was learned so long ago? Well, not enough. There was actually a statistic that the Stanford Research Institute, Harvard University and the Carnegie Foundation released mentioning that divide between people skills and technical skills and you’re reading it as I am technical skills and knowledge account for only 15% of the reason an individual gets, keeps or moves up in a job, 85% of job success depends on people skills.

Lynne Breil: So I’m sure that you can all think of a time when you have had someone in your organization get promoted because they’re very good at the technical aspects of their job, but then they seem to hit a wall on the leadership side because they can’t relate to people. And that’s where etiquette and good business behavior come in. And that is really where people skills come in because no matter what technology comes along, it’s really still people who matter in business. Now, if you’re still unsure of what people skills are, maybe this video from the movie Office Space will help you determine exactly what people skills are. And some of you may have seen this clip before. I’m going to play it for you now. 

Lynne Breil: (Silence)

Sara Lindmont: Lynne were you able to close the video? Well, it looks like Lynne might be having some technical difficulties. So give me a minute here, we appreciate your patience. So Lynne, if you can hear me, what you want to do is go back to your sharing section and select the monitor that has your PowerPoint on it and that’ll remove the video. Can those in the line hear me speaking? Somebody just chat in real quick. Let me know that. Yes. Okay, great. Thank you Laurie. Thank you Diane. Okay, great. So go to webinar hasn’t completely shut down on us. It looks like we just lost our presenter. All right, let me see if I can catch her.

Sara Lindmont: (Silence)

Sara Lindmont: Thank you everyone for… Just to share some humor behind the scenes here. Travis has shared with me that losing the presenter is such a minor issue in a webinar, don’t sweat. Thank you Travis. I have [inaudible] as I am, I’m clearly sweating. So let’s say she is not responding to me, so I wonder if she has lost internet. Let’s give her another couple of minutes here before we decide we need to reschedule. So let’s see if I can, Lynne, are you able to hear me? If so, you can shoot me a quick email if you’re not able to chat in the text box.

Sara Lindmont: (Silence)

Lynne Breil: … Sara, if you are there I can actually hear you. Can you hear me-

Sara Lindmont: Yes, I can now hear you. Okay, perfect. So that change worked for you. Okay, good. Lynne, I’m going to make you the presenter again and you will show your screen and that probably did what it needed to do to clear out the video portion. Perfect. So we see your slide deck and I think a couple of people on the line you can chat in. Yep, slideshow mode. It looks like you are on the very next slide. Yep, you’re good to go. Thank you. Oh, everybody’s saying we all can. Yay.

Lynne Breil: Oh my gosh. Okay I only- 

Sara Lindmont: [crosstalk 00:13:37].

Lynne Breil: I only have one of my screens, but I can run with that, so it’s not a problem. Okay. Good. All right thank you. I apologize about that. I’m sure I hit the wrong button, but anyway, I’m actually going to go on. Thanks for staying with me, everybody. The next slide is about professional presence, which is part of what we’re going to be talking about today. And in Sylvia Hewlett’s book Executive Presence, she comes from an opportunity to research and talk to 4,000 professionals, college educated professionals, almost 400 of them are top executives. And what she did was she asked them what they felt were the pillars of executive presence. And they said there were really three things that set people apart in their profession. And it was gravitas, which is how you act, it was what you say, which is communication, and it was appearance, how you look.

Lynne Breil: And even though you’re looking at the percentages of the differences of these three, don’t think that gravitas is by a long shot, the only thing that matters, in other words, how you act. Because it also matters how you speak and communicate. And one of the top skill sets that senior executives or senior leaders said in communication was the ability to actually stand up and give a presentation. That’s really part of people’s skills it’s not just about content, it’s about the ability to engage an audience and the ability to read an audience, or read a room and having a sense of humor. And on the gravitas and we’re talking about how you act, the senior leaders said that it’s about being decisive. It’s about having emotional intelligence and that’s managing and controlling your emotions and recognizing other people’s emotions or all people skills.

Lynne Breil: It’s also about having confidence in being able to make that quick split second decision. Like if you lose the monitor on a webinar or something like that, that you know what to do. The last one, and I say last only because I’m talking about it last, because that 5% on how you look doesn’t mean that it’s only 5% of importance because it feeds into all the others. But how you look and top aspects of appearance for both men and women, really have to do more with doing something with what you do, with what you have, in other words. Not about being young, it’s not about always being tall, being attractive, it’s what you do with what you have.

Lynne Breil: And so we’re going to talk about some of these things as I go through the seven deadly sins of today’s session. And I am actually going to see if I can go to the [inaudible 00:16:30], we go to the next slide. Ladies and gentlemen, I now have to ask you a question as we get started. And it’s about survey of human resource and performance professionals who identified the most valued competencies, and they actually had about 18. Which of the four below were not in the top three? And this, I know there’s a poll that you were taking, so I’ll give everyone a moment to participate in this poll.

Sara Lindmont: Perfect. So everybody should see that. Okay. Yep. Great. We can see everyone is starting to respond and that’s it. You’re just going to click on those open radio buttons and then hit submit and that’ll come through for us. We’re getting some really good participation.

Lynne Breil: And these again, were again the most valued competencies according to human resource and performance professionals. Good.

Sara Lindmont: Okay. Looks like we’ve got everybody in, so I’m going to go ahead and share those results. And do you see those results, Lynne?

Lynne Breil: I do. Yes. Thanks. Actually going to surprise you that the one that was not in the top three in this survey, human resource and performance professionals was intelligence. Even after I talked about people skills, we’re going back and saying, “It’s not always about having the highest IQ. Maybe it’s about the emotional intelligence too as well as job knowledge.” So I’m going to be talking about etiquette and people skills for business today. And I’m going to show you a graphic of some of the things I’m going to be talking about the seven deadly sins of business etiquette.

Lynne Breil: We’re going to start actually with body language blunders. And psychologists say that 60 to 80% of your message you communicate through body language. That’s the nonverbal part of your communication. But we don’t pay a whole lot of attention, many of us to what we’re doing or saying with our body. And Patti Wood, who’s a body language expert says it in a face to face interaction, “With just one person, you can exchange up to 10,000 nonverbal cues in less than one minute.” And nonverbal cues can include all the ways you present and express yourself apart from the actual words.

Lynne Breil: So we’re going to talk today about some of those cues. And this reminds me of Ralph Waldo Emerson quote that said, “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” I have a question for you about body language. Here is the first one. People will judge your personality and level of confidence by how you shake their hand. So we’re going to open the polls again.

Sara Lindmont: Wow. You see those results?

Lynne Breil: Well, I guess that was a no brainer because the answer is agree. After all maybe I kind of gave a little bit of a disclaimer up front about what that would be, but exactly true that the handshake is like the … If you look at body language, it’s the same way you might look at a currency. The handshake’s like the dollar bill. And I’m going to talk about some of the things that maybe you’ve seen people do or not seeing, you’ve experienced people do when it comes to handshakes. And I have some don’ts and some dos on the slide. I have the don’ts now I’ve given these handshakes names, but the fist bump, I’m sure everybody knows what that is. I actually had a chance to ask some medical professionals who I thought, these are if anybody would do fist bumps because they don’t want to grasp the whole hand, it would be medical professionals?

Lynne Breil: Well, not true. They’d say that the handshake, the traditional handshake is much preferred to a fist bump. But what about the sweaty palmer and what do you do with it? If you are one to have sweaty palms and you just give yourself a swipe against your clothing and just very quickly before you shake hands and that should take care of a little bit of that. The wrestler is the one who just turns your hand so that your Palm is downward and the person’s hand is underneath you, and that’s kind of like some people say, “Well, it’s a show of dominance. Not good in business.” And then the bone crusher, we’ve experienced this where somebody just grasped your hands so hard that it’s painful. The lobster claw is where you just grasp, excuse me, fingers instead of going web to web. Again, not very fulfilling as a handshake and certainly not a show of confidence in business.

Lynne Breil: And the lingerer, what is the difference between holding hands and shaking hands? And the lingerer is the one to hold onto your hand and you probably release your grip five times and they’re still hanging on it. It’s very awkward. And the tickler, Imagine that you’re shaking hands with someone and all of a sudden you feel something a little odd because they are moving one of their fingers against your palm, that’s called the tickler. When I demonstrate these in training sessions, people really have to laugh at that. But those are the don’ts. And the reason I’m talking about handshakes is that in the American business culture, it really does, the handshake show our levels of confidence. So even though I have seasoned professionals in classes that are in training sessions, we actually talk about what makes a good handshake? Eye contact? Grasping the other person? Web to web?

Lynne Breil: How many times do you shake? Well, it’s two or three times and then release. And I like to say, you know when it’s over, it’s kind of like a kiss, you know when it’s over. But since handshakes is the only legitimate form of touch in business, when we first meet someone, you want to get it right, and that’s handshakes. And then we have other body language basics like taking up space. Why? Well, because when we’re not confident, what we do is we close ourselves up and pull ourselves together. If you look in a business setting, the people who take up the most space physically who have the largest offices, let’s say the large, the most space are probably the ones that outrank others. Now that’s just fundamentally what we see, but also, I’m not saying it’s right or wrong, I’m just saying that, that’s what we kind of we allow people who have a greater rank to take up more space.

Lynne Breil: So think about using the space that you have, also using eye contact, which is, it’s kind of tricky because when you’re walking, you have to look where you’re going. But I had some business that I did with a law firm and the biggest criticism, very large firm that some of the associates and the administrative team had with the lawyers was that they weren’t, they didn’t feel they were making enough effort to build relationships with the staff. And when I made some observations and asked some questions, I found out that the lawyers, when they walked through the campus or through the building, they had their heads buried in their mobile devices every time they left their office. So that they weren’t making eye contact just walking down the hall with somebody.

Lynne Breil: And walking with purpose, what I mean take wide steps, it makes you seem more purposeful and it denotes confidence. And as far as avoiding your pockets, any image consultant will tell you that when you show your hands and they’re visible in communication, it’s a much more powerful gesture. And of course smiling, because confident people smile, they don’t have anything to worry about. And so that you’re going to see confident people smile.

Lynne Breil: Well, let’s talk about networking is one of the other sins. Networking that’s not working. And the reason I have this guy up here is because we actually asked professionals what they think the whole networking, the idea of networking really is, what are the goals are? And when I ask people, do you think its … How many do you think that networking is about, getting your business cards in the hands of as many people as you can at a networking event?

Lynne Breil: And a couple people raised their hands and then I say, “Well now if that’s what you feel the goal is, how does it make you feel in that setting?” And many of them say, “Negative words.” And one person said, “Well, it makes me feel sleazy.” And on the other hand, I ask professionals, “Well, how many of you think that networking is about building a relationship with someone in your industry?” And these people give me more positive words. Well, whatever word you attach to networking, remember that the goal is about helping people, it’s not exclusively to sell. And so I do have an agree or disagree question that I already answered for you. So we don’t have to take a poll on this. I’ll just go right ahead, Sara and show them that the answer is disagree. It’s not about pitching your company and getting your business card into the hands of as many people as you can. It is about helping others.

Lynne Breil: Some networking facts include that 80% of all professional opportunities are found through networking. And, we have found when we have interviewed some of our clients and people who actively attend networking and industry events, that they have increased their business performance. Lawyers have reported more billable hours when they are actively involved in industry associations and network and make a practice of it. And the other thing about networking is think about this, most people know at least 200 other people. Now if you made a list of all the people you know from kindergarten on, neighbors, your parents’ friends, your kids’ friends, their parents, people from elementary school, junior school, high school or junior high school, high school, college, church, other social functions that you’ve gone to. And I’ll bet most of us could come up with a list of 200 people.

Lynne Breil: And that means that when you meet someone for the first time, you have access to 200 people that you’ve never known before. You meet two new people at a networking reception, now you have access to 400 people and keep doing the math. So these are some networking facts. However, people do make mistakes networking. And some people just go with the idea of getting through the evening, they don’t have a plan. Nowadays a lot of industry events, there’s a published list of attendees. So go find that list if you can and you have access to it, and look at who’s going to be there and pick a couple people that you want to express and make a point to introduce yourself to because they belong to a company or an affiliate that you’d like to have access to, and there you have a plan. But be strategic also about joining networking groups, which ones are really going to help you in your profession.

Lynne Breil: Another mistake is not leaving your friends. It’s okay to arrive with your friends. It’s okay to leave with your friends, but divide and conquer. You don’t have to save seats for your friends at a banquet or a networking event. It’s probably not your comfort zone, but you’ll meet more people if you branch out. Yesterday I did a program for an academic institution and people were arriving way ahead of time and they were putting their items on seats because they wanted to all sit with their friends. And I thought, well, I have to be really careful about how I mentioned, leaving your friends. But my husband and I we’re business partners, we will deliberately sit at different tables, at a meal function that’s industry related so we can talk to more people. People think we’ve had a fight or something, but that’s not true because what we’re doing is dividing and conquering.

Lynne Breil: We’ve already talked about business card bashing and tentative body language make it looks like with open body language, you’re approachable. When you have your hands in your pockets or when you have your head buried in your mobile device that doesn’t look like you’re someone who wants to meet people, especially if you’re in a standup reception where people can go up to you and introduce themselves. And the other thing is have that good ten second introduction that is intriguing and makes people want to learn more about you. We’re going to talk about follow-up in just a moment.

Lynne Breil: But let’s go to some things that you should be doing. And as I said, set goals and leave your friends, bring business cards, enter the room with confidence. And here’s something that I’ll add. Sometimes it’s easier to approach, not odd numbered groups. The people, the groups of threes, groups of five, definitely people standing by themselves because the conversation tends to be a little less inclusive or exclusive I should say. When you approach, odd numbered groups. It’s more casual, easier to break in the conversation. And don’t hog the food. You decide if you’re going to work the room, maybe it’s not about the food of course, because it’s not your last supper. But sometimes it’s easier instead of balancing a plate of food and a drink in one hand and the food in the other is decide either you’re going to eat or drink as you’re traversing the room. You can always take a couple minutes and go the hors d’oeuvres table and hangout and get some hors d’oeuvres.

Lynne Breil: I meet a lot of people at hors d’oeuvres table, so of course don’t stay there the whole night as you go back in and work the room and walk around, that plate of food or the drink make a decision, it’s one or the other. It’ll be easier for you to access your business card and it’ll be easier for you to shake hands. And by the way that plate of food or that drink goes in your left hand, you want to keep your right hand free for shaking. And have a good ten second introduction. Here’s mine. When people say, “Lynne, well, what do you do?” I say, “Well, I teach professionals how to behave in business.” Now I could stop there because usually people jump in and say something like, “Oh, that’s really interesting.” People could really use that nowadays. But think about what you do in your job and what benefit you offer clients or why your job is important.

Lynne Breil: I teach people how people are professionals, excuse me, how to behave in business. My company is a resource for people skills training. That includes, and then I’m often talking about what we offer if the conversation goes in that direction. So think about how you can introduce yourself in a way that’s make someone want to ask you more about what you do. And I think the secret is tell them how you help people in what you do. I did a program for tax accountants a couple months ago. Now, you may look at that as that doesn’t sound like a real exciting job, but one of the tax accountants said, when he introduces himself, he says, “I help my clients stay out of jail.” And he said, “I don’t even say I’m a tax accountant, because as I know somebody who’s going to jump in and say something.” And they do. And then they say, “Well, really, come on. What do you do?” I say, “Well, actually, I’m working for this firm.” And he tells him what he does. But he’s already gotten their attention.

Lynne Breil: All right, let’s go on to smart business small talk. And I have to say that a lot of people think that small talk is not important. But small talk gets big results. 50% of the population, according to psychology today are introverted. They think that it’s a waste of time to banter and chit chat. But small talk is a necessary starting point to opening doors. It invites people to engage with you and it’s a relationship starter. So for example, when you meet someone for business lunch, you should always start with some small talk until you order or get your first course. And if you find that it’s hard to get past, what to say, here are some suggestions for business small talk. Now I will mention the caveat here is that these are domestic business specific, that this does not travel well because the list would be different in other countries. And I’ve mentioned that in my book, Best in Class, how this is different when we go into other cultures.

Lynne Breil: Okay, I want to go next to a friend of mine, Steve Coscia who says, “That the lack of follow up today is one of the biggest mistakes that people make.” And he said that, “In the absence of information, people tend to make up their own.” When if you think about that we do, we make up our own information. When we don’t hear back from someone with an email or a question, we just decide what the answer is and we could be right, but most times we’re wrong. So I’m going to share with you some of the acceptable follow up rules. And these have changed over time acceptable turnaround times for phone calls, when I ask professionals today, they say within 24 hours, worked related days. And then email people expect an answer the same day, especially because we are using our mobile devices really three out of four times when we open up

Lynne Breil: But think about this, one size does not fit all. So use your contacts preferred medium. If you know your clients or know your business associates. Some people want to talk to you by phone, some people would rather not talk to you by phone and just prefer an email, it’s less intrusive. Some people prefer a text over an email. So I know and I’ve made a note of what my clients like because today I still have clients that prefer a face to face meeting and I’m driving home in my car thinking, you know what? That’s really could have been solved or it could have been handled with a phone call. But this is what they prefer. So the other thing is responding back to messages that if you asked a question that you initiated and if there’s a thread of messages, make sure that you are radically responsive to that.

Lynne Breil: And a handwritten note, I have to tell you that handwritten notes have not lost their value in the workplace, right. What if someone takes more than 15 minutes or refers you to a client or helps you with something, I’ll give you an example. About a year ago, one of our clients who owns a bus company and he has about 75 employees, he gave them as he did every year a gift card for the holidays. Now this year though, he did something different. He wrote a handwritten note and tucked it inside the envelope that had the gift card in. Now he said to me, he said, “It really pained me because I have the worst handwriting, but I wrote something, I tried to make them different and I wrote things bad that they were valued try to personalize every one.” He said, “I have never gotten as many thank you’s, people came up to me, people sent me emails, people stopped me and thanked me for the Christmas gift.”

Lynne Breil: Now it was a holiday gift, excuse me. And he said, “I didn’t really do anything different the amount of the gift card hadn’t increased. It came from the same place, it was the same gift they got last year.” But what was the difference? He included a handwritten note and that makes all the difference and people responded back thanking him overwhelmingly like he had never had that much response and what they were thanking him for really was taking that time.

Lynne Breil: Well, let’s go on to email because a lot of times people think that, we don’t get a response to our email, it’s not our fault, it’s somebody else’s. But the truth is if you’re not getting a response, it really could be you, how you write your emails, how long they are, the subject line, the timing, the tone, the format, the spelling. I mean everything, the signature block is something that you were doing, was not getting the attention. And if your emails aren’t getting the attention, then you might not be getting the attention that you expect and deserve in other business situations.

Lynne Breil: So if I’ve one thing to say about email, it’s this, reply no matter what. I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking to spam. No, no, no there’s a difference between bacon and spam, right? I know is, but reply to the bacon and here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to show you a couple of slides that gives you some specifics on email etiquette. Starting with the first one about a question. We’ll do a couple of questions on email. So here’s a good one to start and I think we’ll open the polls to this. Most professionals choose to open an email based on, okay?

Sara Lindmont: Yep. It looks like we’ve got everyone.

Lynne Breil: Okay. Good. Very good. I’m going to move on. This is actually an interesting one. It is the subject line. So really good. We have some the interesting, this is yes. So thank you everyone. Very, very, very good answer. You know that, I found that, a study that said 33% of readers decide whether to open based on this, but you’re telling me that it’s maybe much more and I agree, the subject line has a lot of opportunity. We’ll talk about that in just a moment. I talked about replying to your emails as a first rule, be responsible. If you can’t send an email that answers every question or that has all the information send a bridge email. A bridge email is one that just says, “I got your email, I’ll be getting back to you later. Thanks for the email. I’ll give you more information tomorrow.” That’s a bridge email, doesn’t say anything other than I got it so people know and they don’t have to make up their own information.

Lynne Breil: But here’s one thing to remember. Stick to one subject per email. Now I have the acronym bluff because this is a really good place to start with email, writing an email. And bluff is an acronym that stands for bottom line up front. So instead of going through a lot of rhetoric and a lot of text, remember just the first thing that you say in your email should be relative to the subject. And I say stick to one subject because if you have a multiple number of subjects that are unrelated, it’s better for people to have different emails because it’s easier for them to respond as they should to that one subject.

Lynne Breil: Here are a couple more. Have a signature block, one of the first, and thank you Sara for being my example here. A signature block that includes another form of how people can get back in touch with you. I mentioned a signature block, but I have to tell you that so many professionals do not include signature blocks. And if you’re thinking really Lynne to every message? Well I have the long one and I have the short one. So maybe if you’re in a thread, the short one is easier going back and forth. But it’s your choice, and then including your logo, make sure that it’s clickable, that when you click on your logo in your signature block, it takes that recipient to your website. It’s a really good way to promote your business. Don’t confuse email with texting because people don’t always understand text lingo and they don’t understand acronyms and they don’t understand maybe emotive cons that don’t always come through in an email.

Lynne Breil: Use a professional salutation and yo is not a professional salutation. I have had students of mine at York College of Pennsylvania say, “Yo, professor.” In an email or, “Hey professor.” Well that’s not a good salutation, but think of it, especially if it’s an external email. A couple more, we talked about the subject line, a clear direct relevant subject line, not a vague subject line. Think of subject lines that really, are clear, they’re relevant and they’re enticing. Stay above the scroll. I mean, most professionals, if they have to scroll down, they’re probably not going to read what they have to scroll down. So keep it above the scroll and proofread every message.

Lynne Breil: I had a student who texted me, a graduate student and I think that, well, they actually used their mobile device to write the email. It wasn’t a text, it was an email and the email was, “Professor, I would like to sleep with you after class.” Well, I know they didn’t mean that they meant I would like to speak with you after class. I’ve never seen a student drop a class so quick. But anyway, I know I would have, I would have been mortified. All right.

Lynne Breil: Know that people from different cultures speak and write differently. When I’m referring to here is when you’re dealing with different time zones, when you’re dealing with different dates, they are written differently in different cultures. So make sure that you’re specific about that and that humor doesn’t travel well and you’ve heard other professionals say that. So I would say for the most part when you are writing an email in a different culture, that is the time to be a little bit more formal, especially in your salutations and in your closings, which is what I’m going to talk about next. 

Lynne Breil: In an email avoid the regards, best wishes, warm wishes, warmly. I don’t know what they mean anyway. So why would you put them in an email? Do something more specific regarding if it’s an action that you want someone to do, like give me a call thanking them for something they’ve done, maybe a pleasantry, enjoy your vacation. Keep tabs on your tone. It’s one of the things I will say, I mean, there’s so much to say about this, but one thing that I try to do is I try to avoid using an apostrophe T words and in email because there think of all the, an apostrophe T words that you know, they’re probably negatively or they have a negative connotation.

Lynne Breil: And then pick up the phone if you have more than three back and forth messages on the same topic. And that comes from what I polling professionals like you and I say, “Okay, well, when do you think you should really pick up the phone?” Let’s talk about mobile phone mishaps. Because, more people today are opening emails on their phone. I think the latest statistic I saw was about 74, 75% opening emails, sending emails from their phone. But let’s talk about some of the mishaps. When it comes to using your mobile device on the job, this is the list I don’t have to go over all of them, but you’re looking at them here. And some of them I really like when you think of using your email, I like all of them, but I mean, once I’ll pull out place your mobile device, screen side down during face-to-face meetings.

Lynne Breil: I say mute your mobile device. This seems like, yeah, sure, I know that. But I was just at a seminar with senior citizens and there were 200 senior citizens in this room and I tell you, their mobile device, the phones were going off left and right and people couldn’t … They didn’t know where the mute button was. It was really funny. And people sometimes fumble with that. Here’s the other thing, I’ll go down the list to the third one from the bottom. Don’t visibly react to content on your device when your attention should be in the room or in a meeting. One thing for professionals to also remember is maybe the non-business apps, kind of keep those out of sight, I’m going back up to the top of the list, but nobody really needs to know what games you play or what social networks you have an account with or that you have a Netflix subscription.

Lynne Breil: So keep these apps on your home screen and place your other apps in a separate screen so that other professionals do not see them, and they don’t need to see them. Here’s the next one about using your mobile device to send a work-related email. Is it the best medium? All these questions, can you keep it simple? Do you have a salutation? Do you have a signature block? Is it time to reevaluate your ring tone? I hear a lot of professionals complain about ringtones. Are you using your mobile device to send negative messages? That’s probably best done face to face. So those are some mobile device mishaps. And cubicle etiquette is our next one.

Lynne Breil: Cubicle and open space offenses. And that is an actual picture that I was sent by a participant in one of my … It wasn’t their cubicle, it was someone in their workplace. So cubicle etiquette includes the top pet peeves, which are noise, food smells, oversharing your life, messy cubicles, and sneaking up on people. So after we did a survey with One Open Space, a company that had open spaces, these were the top cubicle pet peeves. And, I also included what you would want to do to minimize those.

Lynne Breil: I’ll move on to down and out dressing, which is number six. And I know we have a question associated with down and out dressing. I think most of you knew that if I’m talking about business behavior that the way people dress, and I started the webinar out this way matters. So here’s the question. Yoga pants are appropriate attire for casual Fridays. So the poll is open now and you can take a look at that to see if you agree or disagree to yoga pants.

Lynne Breil: Oh, okay. Interesting. Thank you. It is a disagree, but I will tell you, wait, wait, wait, wait. Because this item is up for contention, I understand. I have to say I would tend to disagree that’s because I’m in an older generation. But it’s interesting that Gen Xers and baby boomers tend to say that since they know when millennials and Gen Zers tend to say they’re okay. My advice is to follow what your bosses or your higher ranking individuals are wearing. If they’re not wearing yoga pants or leggings, you shouldn’t either. Last to say with yoga pants though, again, business attire is part of your brand. Dress for what you’re doing, not the day, and when I wrote my book, I will tell you that I had broken down six dress codes, everything from resort casual to boardroom attire. And there’s a lot to be said about how the different interpretations of that.

Lynne Breil: So you know, professionals it might not be enough to say it’s casual Friday, there are different forms of dress codes. When you say casual dress, are we talking about small business casual, baseline casual, smart casual, executive casual? So be specific, and like I said, I broke those down in my book because there is and for different industries there might be different interpretations of casual dress.

Lynne Breil: Well, here we go. The final one, dirty dining. Many people think that when you go to a meal for business, it’s the time to kick back, relax and let your guard down. But that’s really pretty far from the truth because, the best deal can be like a test. And I think people are like owls at a business meal, that their eyes are everywhere. People can tell a lot about how organized you are, how much you pay attention to detail, just simply by the way you handle yourself at a meal, your table manners.

Lynne Breil: Now there’s some things that we should think about with a business lunch. I have this cartoon don’t even think about enjoying yourself because it’s a test and it can certainly tell a lot about you. Some, I do have a question about, this is a fun quote. I love to ask these questions so, that a banquet, how do you communicate with servers that you’re finished with your meal? So the polls are open and thank you everyone for voting. Thank you. Thank you.

Lynne Breil: The answer is just as you said, 91% of you said put your utensils in finished position and that is the correct answer. I have a lot of people say, “Well, do servers really know what it is? Finished position is when you turn your fork tines down with your knife alongside of it and have the handles facing the right side of your plate, because servers will serve from the left and they’ll clear from the right.” So you’re making it easier for servers to grasp the utensils and your plate in one grasp.

Lynne Breil: And here’s a list of things not to order. Probably no surprises here, but it’s kind of like a diet when you look everything from French fries to cheeseburgers to steak. Steak is, by the way, steak is just tough to eat, three chewy. So I don’t know that it’s a good thing when you’re trying to discuss business. Soup is sloppy, hard breads are messy, traditional salad, lettuce leaves get stuck in your teeth. You know the spinach in the teeth thing and people laugh at that but it’s true. Appetizers, and I would tell you what’s wrong with an appetizer? Well, many times appetizers are deep fried finger foods, and that’s messy too. Pizza, dessert, if you’re hosting a meal and you suggest dessert, then it’s okay to order it if everyone else does.

Lynne Breil: Spaghetti well that’s goes without saying. So many things not to order. You think, well, what can you order? When you didn’t tell us what to order. Well, okay, here’s what you can order. Let’s think about things that would be easy to eat. Cooked fish, pasta that’s bite-sized, chopped salads. And also you’d have them go to a go to meal that you like. Maybe it’s a Caesar salad or something that with chicken that is easy,
you know you’re going to like it, easy to consume. So that’s my list of what not to order.

Lynne Breil: And actually we are at with that seven deadly sin, the last slide before we go to questions, if there is time left, worst dining mistakes, I’ll say that people really do make these mistakes and the business meal sets you apart many times from your colleagues. But don’t choose the wrong restaurant and don’t order the wrong thing. If you’re doing business, choose a restaurant where you know you’re going to have good service. I don’t care if you ate there four times this week, and you know this, the service staff. But here’s another one, stay in sync with your guests. If you’re a fast eater, slow down. If you’re slow eater be mindful of when people are finishing up and put your utensils in finished position. It’s not your last supper.

Lynne Breil: Being picky. That may say is subliminally that you’re difficult to deal with. And there are lots of subliminal messages that you send during a business meal. Of seating arrangements, in especially in other cultures there may be a strategy of where you are seated for your meal. So if you have a chance to be the host, you might want to help people and think ahead at times or you might suggest people sit. The others again, speak for themselves, we’ve talked about small talk, ignoring an RSVP request, is just professional to let somebody know if you’re going to be there. And remember I said it’s not your last supper, there’s always a Taco Bell around the corner. Which brings me to a very little time left, but I’m willing to stay on for questions. I will turn it over to Sara now to facilitate that.

Sara Lindmont: Wonderful. Thank you so much Lynne, and thank you everyone for participating today. Go ahead and send in your questions, we do have a couple of minutes, so let’s go ahead and use those wisely. So go ahead and send those in, while we’re waiting for those to come in I do just want to share, with everyone where you can get Lynne’s book. It is available, at their website,, for attending the webinar you do get a special offer on that book. So make sure you check that out and get more detail into your business etiquette skills.

Sara Lindmont: So we do some questions that have come in. So let’s take a couple of seconds and answer those. So Bill asks, and you sort of referenced a little bit around generations. But he asked specifically, “How do you see generational differences, even kind of being alike but then also different, in organizations across the different generations?”

Lynne Breil: How do I see generations being alike but also different.

Sara Lindmont: Yeah. In how they work in these etiquette areas.

Lynne Breil: Well, Bill, thanks for your question first of all. There are lots of statistics that say that diversity in generations is a strength in the workplace because it contributes to a lot of different ideas, a better approach to problem solving. So those are very good things, and I would recommend that the more homework you can do to determine what motivates different generations, the better off that you’ll be as not just a supervisor, but knowing what people want. And again, that goes back to people skills and it goes back to etiquette in the workplace. So I said the generations a diversity in that is good, and as the statistics show it. Also, lots of data that you can find about what motivates different  generations. We now have four generations in the workplace. And so keep that in mind as you supervise people and work with others.

Sara Lindmont: Yes. Great. Great. Thank you. And our next question is from Juvette and it’s talking about, acceptable dress code. When you have a difference in perception on acceptable dress code, what do you do? How do you handle those conversations? And the interpretation of the dress code.

Lynne Breil: Okay. Usually when that happens, and the name again at the questioner, I’m sorry.

Sara Lindmont: Juvette.

Lynne Breil: Thanks for that question. I’ve had it before. When you try and decide, and guide people and they don’t get it or they misinterpret it, it’s usually because the dress code policy and the company’s very vaguely written and also it’s not enforced. Which leads me to my next point because if you are a supervisor, you need to be very clear and specific in addressing with somebody is violating that dress code and he’s not dressed appropriately. You can’t be wishy-washy about it, and it’s a difficult awkward moment, but you have to stay true to what
your company’s policies are.

Sara Lindmont: [inaudible 00:59:29]

Lynne Breil: I would say. Yeah. And it’s so much more difficult to make a dress code more okay. How do I want to say more professional or more conservative than relaxing one. So if you want to tighten up your dress code that is not impossible, but that’s difficult to do. So I would recommend that you be as specific as you can in what is institutionalized in your company.

Sara Lindmont: Good. Wonderful. Thank you so much Lynne. And that’s the time we have today. Before we close, I just want to introduce HRDQ to those that are new with us. HRDQ publishes and delivers research based experiential learning products that you can deliver in your organization. So you can check out our online print self-assessments, we have up out of your seat games and you can deliver those in your organization just purchase the materials. We also though have expert trainers that can come onsite and deliver the trainings for you. So give us a call, head to our website, and we do look forward to being your soft skills training resource. Well that is the time we have for today. Lynne, thank you so much for a great, great presentation.

Lynne Breil: It was my pleasure, Sara, and thanks to all of those who joined on the webinar.

Sara Lindmont: And thanks everyone for participating in today’s session and happy training.


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