R.s.v.p. Etiquette: Is it a dying art?

by Jacqueline Whitmore
Photo credit: istockphoto.com

Photo credit: istockphoto.com

Here’s a simple lesson in R.s.v.p. etiquette.

R.s.v.p. is an abbreviation for the French phrase, “Répondez s’il vous plaît” meaning “Reply please.” And when you respond and accept an invitation, it is your responsibility to show up. When you fail to show up to a party after accepting an invitation, it’s not only rude and inconsiderate, it can also be costly to the person hosting the party.

Such was the case when a 5-year-old boy from Torpoint in Cornwall, England, was invited to a friend’s birthday party last month at the Ski Slope and Snowboard Centre in Devon. While he initially told his parents he wanted to go, they realized that they were double-booked on that day. The boy was scheduled to visit his grandparents. In the end, the boy and his family chose to visit the grandparents instead of attending the birthday party.

But that’s not the end of the story.

Sometime later, the boy received an invoice from the birthday boy’s mother in the amount of £15.95 ($24.13) for the “Child’s Party No-Show Fee.” This was a gutsy move on her part and one that made headlines all over the world.

Unfortunately, when guests don’t bother to R.s.v.p., the burden of following up falls on the host’s shoulders. When guests don’t bother to show up, the host may also have to absorb any food and beverage expenses.

I can relate. Several years ago I hosted a book launch party at a posh hotel in Palm Beach. The hotel charged me $50.00 per head. Two of my guests called a few hours before the event to say they needed to spend time with their ailing mother. Their absence cost me $100.00.

If you host parties, it helps to know how to increase your chances of getting a better response rate. Here are some tips:

  • When you issue an invitation, include a response date on the invitation. Example: “Please respond by January 31, 2015.”
  • Never put “regrets only” on an invitation. Doing this will not guarantee an accurate head count.
  • It’s best not to send an invitation via the Internet unless your event is extremely casual. Just know that a virtual invitation may wind up in your intended guest’s spam filter.
  • If a guest does not respond by the deadline date on the invitation, it’s best to call or send an email to make sure your guest is not coming.
  • If a guest confirms but doesn’t show up, make a courtesy call after the event and express your concern. It’s bad form to send your guest a bill. If they have a valid excuse, forgive and forget. If they don’t, you’re better off not inviting them again.

Is it okay to bill your guests if they fail to show up at your party? Let me know your thoughts.

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What a Woman Wears To Work Really Does Matter

by Jacqueline Whitmore
Photo credit: Getty Images

Photo credit: Getty Images

I work with some of the brightest women in the world who spend countless hours on their education, networking endeavors, and seminars — anything to stay competitive and get ahead. Unfortunately, many of them overlook their own visual résumé as part of the package.

I was most surprised recently when I taught a business etiquette seminar to a group of female scientists who told me they didn’t want to look “too attractive or too good” for fear of not being taken seriously by their peers.

Call it “dress for success” or “dress for the job you want” — it’s more than an adage for women. Style and image have played and continue to play a crucial role in the career strategies and trajectories of many high-powered execs. Let’s face it, how you look says a lot about you — whether you’re organized, lazy, fashion-forward, creative or serious.

When you make an effort to present your best self, it shows respect for your employer, your job, and the career strata in which you aspire. When you dress sloppy, you send the message that your comfort and the way you like to dress are more important than your potential audience. Yes, it’s important to know how to close a deal, but when you also dress well, you command the respect of your peers and communicate the kinds of business opportunities you’d like to have.

You may think that focusing on appearance as part of your career strategy sounds superficial — that we should be judged for our intelligence and experience, not our style. But will someone really want to listen to you if you look dull, boring, meek, and frumpy? Sure, it’s what’s on the inside that counts, but sadly, that’s not how the workforce works.

When you look good, you feel great. You feel the authority, the professionalism, and the respect internally, and you project that out onto the world.

Here are five tips to help you enhance your overall professional image:

Carry a quality pen. You don’t have to spend a lot of money on a pen but it should look attractive and write well. One of my favorites is my Waterman fountain pen because of the size, weight, and way it glides smoothly across the paper.

Invest in a few good suits. When you put on a suit, you assume the role that comes with it. You will find that you walk a little taller and have more confidence. Whenever you wear a suit you give the impression that you’re serious about the business at hand.

Buy quality, not quantity. Purchase good quality “global” clothing, especially for business travel. Select lightweight, breathable fabrics that don’t wrinkle easily and can be worn in multiple climates. It will be more cost efficient in the long run if you purchase suits made from fabrics such as wool or a wool-blend that can be successfully worn to a meeting in San Francisco and still look appropriate in New York, London or Singapore. Colors such as black, navy, and taupe are professional, travel well, and don’t look seasonal. Showcase your personality while adding a pop of color with your accessories.

Beware of bulky baggage. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well dressed you are if your accessories look shabby and well worn. A bag overstuffed with papers can give people the impression that you are disorganized and sloppy. Your briefcase does more than just hold important papers, a wallet, and cell phone. It holds clues about your success, professionalism and personality.

Put your best foot forward. Shoes are your most important accessory because they do more than simply complete your ensemble; good-looking, polished shoes help convey your professional image and attention to detail. Your feet need to last the rest of your life, so take good care of them by wearing the best shoes you can possibly afford.

 

 

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Toasting Etiquette: 6 Tips for Tasteful Toasting During the Holidays

by Jacqueline Whitmore
Photo credit: Shutterstock

Photo credit: Shutterstock

A toast is the perfect way to recognize a special occasion or celebration, especially during the holidays. The custom of raising a glass of wine or champagne is attributed to ancient Greece, when a sip was taken to demonstrate that the drink was not poisoned. To ward off evil spirits, guests believed in clinking their glasses together, a tradition that is still practiced today, though few appreciate the history.

Here are some 6 tips for tasteful toasting during the holidays.

Follow the host’s lead. It’s appropriate for the host to propose a toast at the beginning of the meal to welcome all the guests. After the host makes his toast, anyone else can propose a toast.

Keep is brief. The toast is more memorable if you keep the three S’s in mind: keep it short, simple and sincere. Remember, you’re giving a toast, not a roast.

Toast during the beginning or at the end of the meal. A toast is most appropriate before everyone begins eating or during the dessert course.

Everyone drinks except the guest of honor. If you’re the one being toasted, don’t touch your glass or drink to yourself. It’s like patting yourself on your own back. When the host sits down, you’ll be expected to return the toast and then you may drink.

Always participate in a toast. Even if you don’t drink alcohol, it’s perfectly acceptable to toast with a soft drink, a glass of sparkling cider, or mineral water. Or you can raise a glass of wine or champagne to your lips, pretend to drink it, then set it aside.

It’s not necessary to clink glasses. In some cultures, clinking is considered bad form and should be avoided. When in doubt, watch the host. If you’re in a small group, always look each person in they eye when you lift your glass. You can complete the toast by saying something like, “Cheers” or “Bottoms Up.”

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Today is National Re-gifting Day

by Jacqueline Whitmore
Photo credit: makinthebacon.com

Photo credit: makinthebacon.com

Several years ago I hosted a holiday brunch at my house and one of my guests gave me a hostess gift. When she left, I opened the bag and found a pretty candle tucked inside. I also found an envelope. When I opened the envelope, I discovered that it was addressed to her. I had just received a re-gift! I kept the candle but I never said a word to her.

Is it proper to re-gift something that you don’t want or need? Many years ago etiquette experts discouraged the practice. But times have changed and so have our gift-giving habits.

After the recession, re-gifting has become more popular and acceptable. In fact, more than three in four Americans find re-gifting socially acceptable, according to a recent survey from American Express. And last year, consumers re-gifted an average of four presents.

Today is National Re-gifting Day. So if you plan to re-gift an item, follow these rules:

Mind your social circles. Don’t re-gift a present among the same social circle. That means if your co-worker gave you a bad present last year, it shouldn’t make an appearance at this year’s office party. Same goes with gifts among friends and extended family. To make sure you don’t break this rule, keep all potential re-gifts in a closet with Post-It notes attached to each item detailing when, where and who gave the gift.

Make sure some time has lapsed. While you don’t want to give dated gifts, give a little breathing room between when you receive and re-purpose a gift to avoid having the original giver ask about it.

It has to be the right fit. A re-gift has to come with the right intention, meaning it must fit the receiver’s style and be something you would likely have purchased on your own as a gift. Maybe that scarf is not quite right for you, but you know your best friend will love it. That’s acceptable.

Don’t re-gift with immediate family members. Skip the re-gift option when it comes to parents and siblings. If you have something that you know your sister would like just give it to her and tell her the situation. Don’t try and pass it off as an original gift.

The gift has to have value. Unless it’s an heirloom or antique, a re-gift should always be something new. Something you got for free or something with someone else’s initials is also generally off the re-gift table.

Keep the original packaging, but always re-wrap. A re-gifted product should be given in its original packaging, but always keep the seals intact and take the time to re-wrap it. And always double check to make sure a personal note or something extra wasn’t added inside the boxed item.

Admit it when caught. If you get caught recycling a gift, own up to it. Yes, it will be embarrassing but don’t dwell on it. Just address it, explain why you thought the person would like it and change the subject.

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Mastering Royal Etiquette: How To Greet Will and Kate During Their Upcoming U.S. Visit

by Jacqueline Whitmore
Will and Kate

Photo credit: AP

Among the roughly five million visitors expected in New York this holiday season, at least two are certain to get the royal treatment. Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Kate, will be making their first visit to the Big Apple on Sunday.

International etiquette expert and author Jacqueline Whitmore shares the following tips for those lucky enough to meet the royal couple during their three-day visit.

Conversation:

Properly known as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, address Prince William as “Your Royal Highness” at the start of a conversation, followed by “Sir” in later conversation. Address the Duchess of Cambridge as “Your Royal Highness” at the start of a conversation, followed by “Ma’am” (to rhyme with jam) throughout your conversation. But those close to them say the “relaxed” couple are not sticklers for the exact rules.

Be prepared with a few conversation icebreakers. Stick to topics that most interest the couple. For example, William enjoys talking about polo and many of his favorite charities including fighting illegal trade in wildlife parts.

Kate loves talking about her 17-month old son, Prince George. She is also expecting her second child in April. Kate also loves fashion. She’s a style icon whose outfits can sell out in stores within hours after she’s seen in them. Look for her to pack some American labels for her trip to the U.S. It’s a tradition to pay some fashion tributes to a host country.

Handshaking:

It’s best to wait until William or Kate offers their hand to you before you extend yours. Give a slightly firm (not a bone crushing or limp, dead fish) handshake. If you wear gloves, remove your right glove before shaking hands. And never give a cold, wet, clammy handshake.

Body Language:

It is not necessary for an American citizen to bow or curtsy to William and Kate as you are not one of their royal subjects.

If you are a British or Commonwealth citizen, you should bow if male, and curtsy if female. Bow from the neck, not the waist. To curtsy, place one foot behind the other and slightly bend both knees.

Maintain eye contact throughout the greeting.

Physical contact including hugging and air kissing should be avoided unless the couple initiates the gesture of affection.

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How To Throw the Best Holiday Party Ever

by Jacqueline Whitmore
Photo credit: Formalfringe.com

Photo credit: Formalfringe.com

Thanksgiving has come and gone, so you know what that means? It’s party time!

In order to gear up for Christmas and New Years, you’ll want to make sure your home is prepped and ready to have people over to celebrate with holiday cheer. The best rule to keep in mind is the five Ps: prior planning prevents poor performance.

Here are my 10 tips for being a hospitable host and how to throw the best holiday party ever:

1. Do your homework:

Find out ahead of time if any of your guests have food allergies or other dietary restrictions and plan your menu accordingly or prepare a buffet with a variety of items. Keep it simple and serve what you know. Don’t try to serve an unfamiliar, complicated, or labor-intensive dish your first time out.

2. Keep a list:

Write down all of the items you need to make your meal complete. It’s especially frustrating when you think you have all of your ingredients and then discover in the midst of cooking that you don’t have enough salt, sugar or butter.

3. Have a variety of beverages on hand:

The mark of a good host is to have a few bottles of red and white wine along with plenty of nonalcoholic beverages for the non-drinkers of the group.

4. Stock up on snacks:

This includes nuts, chips, salsa or dip, one or two different cheeses, crackers, and one or two kinds of frozen appetizers. Choose hors d’oeuvres that are easy to eat and require only one bite. This will ensure that no one gets crumbs on his or her nice outfit or on your floor.

5. Do as much as possible the day before:

Don’t wait until the last minute. Set your table the night before. Clean and polish your serving pieces and fill your salt and pepper shakers a few days before your dinner party to avoid last-minute flurries.

6. Iron your linens:

When you are serving cocktails, provide linen cocktail napkins or, at the very least, decorative paper cocktail napkins. For dinner, use linen napkins because they’re more elegant than paper ones.

7. Set the mood:

Candles are an easy, inexpensive, quick way to make any home more inviting. Buy as many candles as you can and place them throughout your house. Remember to reserve a few unscented ones for the dinner table. Light your candles approximately 15 or 20 minutes prior to your guests’ arrival, and then light the candles on your dinner table just before everyone sits down to dine.

8. Choose your tunes:

Music is a vital element in the staging of a good holiday get together, as it sets the tone for the evening. Create a dinner party playlist on your iPod or iPhone or preset your CD player so there’s music in the air when your guests arrive and keep it playing throughout the evening. (I love Jazz Holidays Radio on Pandora)

9. Preset your coffee and tea service:

About an hour before your party, set up your coffeemaker and put cream, milk, sugar, and sweetener in decorative containers. Put condiments in attractive bowls or containers rather than placing bottles directly on the table. Put your coffee cups, saucers, teaspoons, and assorted teas on a tray on a side table.

10. Make time for yourself:

Allow plenty of time to shower, get dressed, and look your best for your party. You’ll want to greet your guests at the door with a relaxed smile on your face. The more prepared you are, the more comfortable you will feel, and the better time you’ll have at your own party.

For more great entertaining tips, check out my book POISED FOR SUCCESS: Mastering the Four Qualities That Distinguish Outstanding Professionals.

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29 Gifts: A Season of Gratitude

by Jacqueline Whitmore

29gifts As the holiday season approaches, I’m reminded of a woman named Cami Walker, author of the bestselling book, 29 Gifts: How a Month of Giving Can Change Your Life.

Just one month after her wedding day, Walker was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, an incurable neurological condition. The life she loved was gone. Her symptoms became unbearable and she lost the use of her hands, the vision in one eye and eventually the ability to walk. She was spiraling into a deep depression and an addiction to pain medication. In need of a friend, Walker called her old neighbor, a spiritual teacher named Mbali.

“I called her thinking I would have a little pity party,” Walker says. “Instead, she told me, ‘Stop thinking about yourself.'” She gave Walker a prescription: Give something away every day for 29 days.

Walker was skeptical at first, but when a new series of medical treatments failed to help her symptoms, she decided to take Mbali’s advice.

For one month, Walker focused her energy on simple acts of kindness, like calling a friend going through a tough time or handing a flower to a stranger on the street. Though the gifts weren’t always extravagant and often didn’t cost a dime, Walker says the meaning behind her gifts created a shift in her life. “Our thinking has a lot of power, but I think it goes a little deeper,” she says. “There is definitely a spiritual element.”

As the days went on, her altruism began to have a life-changing impact on her physical and mental health. “By day 14 I was able to walk,” she says. “By day 29 I was working part time again.” Although the giving cycle couldn’t cure her MS, Walker says she regained the ability to live her life.

Since finishing her 29 days, Walker has continued to find ways to give daily and has created a global movement on 29Gifts.org. She is still feeling the positive effects. “I’ve had three MRIs showing no new damage. That’s a really good sign,” she says.

This holiday season, why not embrace the spirit of giving with your own 29 days of kindness? Remember, gifts do not need to be material. “You can just sit and listen to someone, for example,” Walker says. “The most important thing is that the gift is offered. Find an opportunity with open heart and don’t expect anything in return.”

To get you started, here are a few of Walker’s favorite gifts:

  • Make dinner for your significant other.
  • Make a point of calling a friend just to talk.
  • Hand out flowers on the street to make someone’s day.
  • Give an unexpected tip. Walker gave a tip to a group of kids performing a break-dancing routine on the street.
  • Help a stranger in need.

Instead of planning out your month of giving, Walker says to go through each day looking for opportunities to present themselves. And if you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up over it. “It’s not about being a perfectionist,” she says.

Give someone special an inspirational book this holiday season. I highly recommend Cami Walker’s book!

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The Five Most Annoying People on Facebook

by Jacqueline Whitmore

Did you know that November 17 was National Unfriend Day? Several years ago, talk show host Jimmy Kimmel designated this day for parring down your list of friends on Facebook.

We all know someone who makes us want to unfriend them or quit Facebook altogether when they show up in our news feed. Facebook was designed to be an effective tool to stay in touch with family and friends. But instead, the following personality types seem to use it as a platform to brag, rant or overshare.

Here are the five most annoying people on Facebook:

5 Most Annoying People on Facebook

Photo credit: Marco Paköeningrat/Flickr

1. The Ranter: The person who likes to rant about trivial things. He hates this and can’t stand that. He constantly complains and nothing you can say or do will make him happy.

2. The Braggart: The person who wants you to know how smart or good looking she is or how smart her kids or pets are. Braggarts are addicted to posting selfies and share endless pictures of their children or pets.

3. The Debbie Downer: The person who has nothing positive to say. He wants everyone to know how bad his life is.

4. The Politician: The person who talks about nothing but politics and what’s wrong with his city, county or country. He loves to inflame others’ opinions and post long responses to comments.

5. The Stalker: The person who uses Facebook as a way to check up on people but NEVER contributes by posting or “liking” what you or others have to say.

To avoid your Facebook posts from becoming annoying or inappropriate, use discretion. Your Facebook wall allows others to know what you’re doing, thinking or feeling. Exercise some restraint before you post. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable with your local newspaper printing your status update as tomorrow’s headline, don’t put it on Facebook.

Make sure the photos you post are appropriate. Unless you customize your privacy settings, anyone (including your employer) can see what you pictures you post. Don’t compromise yourself or your reputation by sharing photos with scantily clad men or women, obscene gestures or other questionable activities.

Are you planning to clean up your list of friends this week? Comment below and tell me how many people you decide to let go.

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AICI Canada Welcomes Etiquette Expert Jacqueline Whitmore

by Jacqueline Whitmore

Recently I had the privilege of traveling to Toronto, Canada where I presented my one-day workshop, “Outshine Your Competition and Build a Better Brand” to the Association of Image Consultants Association Canada Chapter. Members and guests traveled from as far away as Las Vegas, Nevada and Rochester Hills, Michigan to attend.

AICI Toronto Education Day with Jacqueline Whitmore.

AICI Canada Education Day with Jacqueline Whitmore.

During the workshop, I taught the participants how to garner more media attention and increase their revenue by using my time-tested marketing strategies.

The highlight of the day was hearing the members and guests share their own business stories, challenges, and successes. Each one of us left with unique insights and solutions to many complex business issues.

A special thank you goes to the VP of Programs, Dominique Vaughan-Russell, who graciously hosted this event and to Angele Dèsgagné for hosting me in her home. Her warm and charming hospitality made me feel comfortable and welcome.

Here’s what some of the AICI Canada members had to say about the workshop:

“The workshop with Jacqueline was even more helpful than I imagined it would be. She is an extremely generous and totally inspiring speaker who was very open about every aspect of her own business experiences. I came away with many clear and straightforward ideas that I could implement right away. Her openness and honesty were refreshing. She even gifted each of us with a signed copy of her newest book. It was a day well spent.”
Diane Ballos, AICI Member

“I thoroughly enjoyed Jacqueline’s ‘Outshine the Competition and Build a Better Brand’ workshop. She was engaging and inclusive, and we were all given the opportunity to participate and improve our messages and presentation skills. Jacqueline is a consummate professional and a wonderful presenter.”
Dominique Vaughan-Russell, AICI FLC

“The workshop was very informative. The materials Jacqueline delivered and shared was detailed and useful to the business of image consulting and professional development, especially the tips on how to write articles and start a blog. Jacqueline made sure the session was engaging and left room for questions to be asked and for other attendees to share their personal stories. I would recommend this session to other professionals and business owners.”
Morenike Tundeidowu, AICI Member

“Jacqueline is an inspiring speaker! I personally appreciated Jacqueline’s incredible insights and wisdom. Her willingness to openly share her own personal struggles and successes was most refreshing. I took away many tips that I can put to use right away.”
Angele Dèsgagné, AICI CIP

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Birthday Party Etiquette Tips for Hosts and Guests

by Jacqueline Whitmore

It may seem like a simple affair, but a birthday party for a child can bring up a lot of questions. Especially with small children and preschoolers, it’s difficult to know what’s appropriate and what’s not. You may be wondering: “Do I need to have goodie bags for every guest?” Or, “Can I bring my other children along?”

Birthday cake for a 1-year-old

Photo credit: Oscar Shen via Flickr

Here are some birthday party etiquette tips for hosts and guests:

If you’re the host:

  • Don’t discipline someone else’s children.
  • Set a spending limit so no one tries to “out spend” your other guests.
  • Set a timeline for your party so your guests don’t overstay their welcome.
  • Help your child write thank-you notes to all those who attended the party.
  • Provide each child with a small goodie bag filled with a toy or baked goods to take home so everyone feels important.

When you and your child are invited to a party:

  • RSVP. If you say you’re going to attend, please attend. Reply within one week of receiving the invitation. Don’t wait until the last minute.
  • Bring only who is invited on the invitation. Siblings should only attend if they are invited.
  • Bring a gift or make a donation in the child’s name to the parents’ favorite charity.
  • Stick to your budget on presents and don’t try to outdo other parents.
  • It’s not absolutely necessary to send a gift if you cannot attend the party, but a birthday card is a nice gesture.
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