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How to be professional at a business dinner

Getting an opportunity for an evening of business etiquette training from Kathleen Harshberger ‘80 is like being invited for a private piano lesson by Beethoven.

President Kyle with the students who joined her table for the Etiquette Dinner

President Kyle with the students who joined her table for the Etiquette Dinner

Nearly 200 Radford University students took advantage of the offering from Harshberger Tuesday night at the university's annual Protocol Dinner in Muse Banquet Hall.

The popular annual event, sponsored by RU Career Services, Community Engagement and Chartwells, is designed to provide RU students entering the workforce with dining and etiquette skills that will put them at ease in interview, business and networking situations.   “You are making an important investment in your future success by attending this event, your future success both professionally and socially,” said RU President Penelope W. Kyle, in her opening remarks. “This investment will add a lifetime of dividends to you and your career."

That’s exactly the reason Rehn West, a senior journalism major from Norfolk, attended the Protocol Dinner.

“We really want to learn about etiquette, since we’re graduating and obviously getting jobs, hopefully. We want to be able to handle ourselves properly while dining with our bosses. Or if we have an interview that’s at dinner, we want to know how to eat, what to eat, how to sit,” said West, sitting with a friend before the lessons began.

President Kyle demonstrates the proper way to introduce one's self at a dinner event as she shakes hands with Sarah Ponthieux

President Kyle demonstrates the proper way to introduce one's self at a dinner event as she shakes hands with Sarah Ponthieux

Learning to navigate the numerous forks, spoons and knives spread on the table also brought West to the dinner. “I don’t know anything about this,” she said, pointing to the placement of the silverware on the table. “You really don’t learn this growing up unless you’re from a really fancy household,” she said with a laugh.

Throughout the evening, Harshberger, a graduate of the Protocol School of Washington, served her business etiquette knowledge with charm and wit and quickly reminded the students and table hosts, “Remember everybody, the professional meal is not about the eating, it’s about the meeting.”

During the four-course meal, Harshberger addressed numerous business etiquette topics, such as posture, how to hold a fork and knife during the dinner and when to use which piece of silverware. Harshberger eased tensions of left-handed eaters when she instructed that it’s ok to reverse the placement of the silverware.

Harshberger took many questions from the eager-to-learn students on a number of business etiquette rules such as exchanging business cards, slow eating, body piercings and tattoos and the correct form for handshakes. “Handshake is the only acceptable form of touching in the professional world today. Not the hug; not the air kiss,” she said to laughter from the audience. “And, no fist bumps.”

Harshberger has been providing the Protocol Dinner at RU for “at least six” years, she said, because “Business Etiquette and Dining Skills is cutting-edge training for students going into the professional world. I am delighted to share my expertise with RU students as they prepare for careers in a very competitive business arena.”

Kathleen Harvey Harshberger demonstrates the proper way to hold ones salad fork and knife during a formal dining situation in the business world

Kathleen Harvey Harshberger demonstrates the proper way to hold ones salad fork and knife during a formal dining situation in the business world

Following the dinner, Myrina Booker and Mike Opthof, both juniors from Winchester, were appreciative to be the recipients of Harshberger’s expertise.

“I learned a lot tonight,” said Booker, a management major. “I learned how to properly eat my meal, specifically what silverware is used for what purpose. Also, I learned how to place the silverware when I was finished eating.”

Booker said she also took note of Harshberger’s instructions about business attire. Opthof, a media studies major, said he is now more confident about future business dinners. “I think knowing how to do this, they (dining partners) will say ‘he knows what he’s doing. He has experience with this kind of thing.’ It’s beneficial,” he said.

Before the dinner began, RU’s Office of Alumni Relations snapped professional photos of participating students to post on their LinkedIn profile pages. “Hashtag, no more selfies,” joked Laura Turk, executive director of Alumni Relations.

“Career Services takes great pride in assisting students to acquire the competence and confidence to successfully transition from campus to career,” said Director of Career Services, Ellen Taylor. “Events such as the Protocol Dinner significantly increase the student’s readiness to shake the hand and speak confidently with employers in a variety of networking and interview settings.”

Taylor said students will have an opportunity to practice their newly acquired skills at next week’s Spring Career and Internship Fair (Feb. 26) and Education Job Fair (Feb 28).

Feb 21, 2014