Category Archives: Professional dress

Barbeque Etiquette – It’s Time to Revisit the Rules

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It’s  time to brush up on your barbeque etiquette. Memorial Day is upon us, marking the official start of the summer barbeque season. This is the time of the year when the grill is hauled out, cleaned off, the required cooking utensils inventoried, lawn furniture hosed down, and barbeque sauces and rubs added to the grocery list.

If barbeque etiquette sounds like an oxymoron, it isn’t. There are rules for how to conduct yourself whether you are the host or the guest. Just because these events are held outdoors and are casual in nature does not mean that anything goes. Whether it’s a business occasion like the company picnic or a gathering of family and friends, there are required behaviors.

Etiquette Tips for the Host:

  1. Be prepared. Make sure you have enough of everything from charcoal or propane to food and beverages. Don’t forget an ample supply of plastic cups, paper plates, napkins and disposable cutlery. Grandma’s china and crystal are not the best substitutes if you run out of serving items.
  2. Have a rain plan. While rain should be forbidden during outdoor events, it happens. Arrange for tents if the crowd is large or know how you will manage when your guests gather indoors.
  3. Provide all the food and beverage. Unless you are hosting a family reunion or the traditional neighborhood party, don’t ask people to bring the food. If someone insists on bringing a dish; be gracious and accept, but don’t make it a requirement.
  4. Have plenty of bug spray and insect repellent. Your guests should eat, not be eaten. If you live in a “buggy” environment, it’s a good idea to have food domes on hand, not only to keep certain foods warm, but also to keep pests out of your culinary delights.

Etiquette Tips for the Guest:

  1. Keep your grilling advice to yourself. Your host is in charge of the grill. You may have what you consider to be a better way of doing of things, but unless you realize the host is about to set the house on fire, keep your mouth shut. Open it only for conversation and food.
  2. Leave your legendary potato salad at home. Unless you are asked to bring a dish, don’t. It would be an insult to your host who already has a carefully planned menu. It is certainly nice to offer to bring something, but ask first to be sure it is welcome.
  3. Volunteer to help. These events can get hectic so offer your assistance especially when it comes to cleaning up.
  4. Use your napkin to clean off your sticky fingers. Tempting as it may be to lick your fingers, it is simply not good manners even at a picnic. Neither is using your finger nail or toothpick to pluck the corn silk from between your teeth. Be sure to have dental floss on hand, but excuse yourself before you pull it out.

Etiquette Tips Specifically for the Company Barbecue

  1. Maintain your professionalism. While you are there to have fun, be mindful of your actions and your words.
  2. Dress like a professional. Business attire is not expected, but your casual dress should be conservative. Avoid anything that is sloppy, shabby, sexy or revealing.
  3. Hold back when serving yourself. Piling on as much food as your plate will hold makes you look like you only came to eat. You can go back for seconds once everyone has been served.
  4. Play it safe with the drinks. If alcohol is being served, limit your intake. Warm weather, alcoholic beverages and a company barbecue can be a dangerous combination.

Barbecue picnics are a relaxed way for family, friends and co-workers to come together to socialize and build relationships. Enjoy yourself, but be mindful of your manners. Demonstrate your best barbecue etiquette so you will be invited back and, in case of the company picnic, to insure that you will still have a job on the next working day.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: to find out how her presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.























How Much is Rudeness Costing Your Business?

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Business Etiquette - The Key to SuccessHave you ever thought about how much rudeness may be affecting your bottom line? What is the cost to your company when the people who represent you lack proper manners?

Do you know how many clients are turned off by employees who would rather carry on a conversation with each other than with the client? Can you count the number of people who hang up and call someone else because the person who answered your phone put them on hold without asking permission?

How does the client rate your professionalism when the employee who welcomes him to your office looks as if she is dressed for a day at the beach? Are your employees treating each other with courtesy and respect? Do they work as a team and help each other out or do they act like cast members on Survivor?

Try taking this quick true/false quiz to test your own business etiquette expertise. Then run it by your employees to assess their rudeness quotient.

    1. Business etiquette is based on rank and hierarchy.
    2. If the information on your business card is incorrect, draw a line through it and write the correct information on the card.
    3. Business casual means dressing down one notch from business professional.
    4. In today’s relaxed business environment, it is not necessary to ask your clients’ permission before using their first names.
    5. Callers do not mind holding for information as much as holding for a person.
    6. Handwritten notes are out of place in the business world.
    7. A man should wait for a woman to put out her hand in business before offering his.
    8. When composing an e-mail message, complete the “To” line last.
    9. Small talk around the office is a waste of time.
    10. If you receive a call on your cell phone when you are with a client, it’s fine to check to see who’s calling, but don’t answer.


    1. In business, you defer to the senior or highest ranking person, regardless of age or gender.
    2. Handing out business cards with information that is outdated is unprofessional. Have new cards printed immediately.
    3. Business casual is not an excuse to wear your favorite old clothes to the office. It’s business. Look professional.
    4. Don’t assume you can call clients by their first name. Use titles and last names until asked to do otherwise.
    5. Clients will wait patiently while you search for information on their behalf.
    6. Handwritten notes have become as rare as the typewriter. Stand out from your competition by sending your clients handwritten notes.
    7. In business it is off-putting when a man hesitates to extend his hand to a woman.
    8. If you wait until you have carefully proofed your message before you hit “send”, you will never be embarrassed or have to apologize for your email errors.
    9. Small talk in the office is a great way to build relationships among co-workers.
    10. It is just as rude to check your phone to see who called as it is to take a call in front of a client. Turn your phone off and check your messages later.

If you had trouble with any of these questions, your employees will, too. If you want your employees to be at ease in business situations, to represent you well and help build your business, give them the information they need. If you haven’t engaged in business etiquette skills training lately, do it now. Don’t let rudeness cost you business.

No one is born with good manners. People have to be taught, and from time to time, they need to be reminded of what they already know.

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert, keynote speaker, trainer and author. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: to find out how her presentations and workshops can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits.


Developing New Habits to Mind Your Manners

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January is typically the month when most people think about making resolutions or setting goals for the New Year. With all good intentions, resolutions soon go by the wayside, and we continue in our old ways. By now yours are probably nothing more than a distant memory.

Why not take a new approach?  Instead of making resolutions or setting goals, consider developing new habits. Of course, I am thinking of developing new habits that fall in the realm of civility—that which is sorely missing in today’s world.

In the seventh annual Civility in America poll conducted by Weber Shandwick and Powell Tate with KRC Research, a record high number—69  percent—of  Americans believe that the U.S. has a major civility problem. My guess is that you would agree. Obviously the problem is overwhelming and putting a simple band aid on the issue won’t fix it. However, if you look at your own behaviors, I bet there are more than a few habits you could change or new ones you could develop that would help at least your world become a more civilized place.

Check my list for developing new habits and see which ones might apply to you.

  1. Cell phone Addiction. Do you have to have your cell phone with you at all times and in all places? Do you feel naked or lost without it? Does it need to be turned on or visible wherever you are? Do you answer every call, text or email that comes in no matter where you are? If you can say “yes” to any or all of those questions, consider developing a new habit. Keep your phone off and out of sight in the company of others. When you have your phone on or carefully place it where you can keep an eye on it, you are sending a message that the people in your presence are not as important as someone who might be about to call, text or send you an email.
  2. Eating with no regard for manners. Do you talk with food in your mouth? Chew with your mouth open? Wave your utensils in the air to make a point? Use your napkin to blow your nose? Eat with your elbows on the table? If so, your new habit might be paying attention to your table manners and remembering what your mother taught you. If you weren’t listening or have simply forgotten, there are resources that can help you develop good habits when dining with others. May I recommend an email or hard copy of my own Lydia Ramsey’s Little Book of Table Manners – 85 Tips for Dining for Success?
  3. Failing to reply to invitations. When an invitation to an event arrives, get into the habit of checking your calendar immediately and sending your response. Your host needs to know how many people to plan for so failing to reply is beyond thoughtless.
  4. Omitting the words “please”, “thank you”, “excuse me” and “you’re welcome” from your vocabulary. Getting in the habit of using those simple words can make a big difference in your interaction with others. Their use identifies you as a considerate person. And please, please, please try to remember that “No problem” is not the proper response to “thank you”. The correct reply is “you are welcome”.
  5. Wearing dirty, scuffed or unpolished shoes. If you think that others don’t notice your shoes, you are wrong. There are indeed people who notice shoes first thing. I call them “the shoe people.” When these people look at your feet, they are not checking to see if you are wearing the latest fashion, they are noticing the condition of your shoes and making a judgment about you. If you don’t pay attention to your shoes, perhaps you don’t pay attention to other details. This is not the message you want to send in business. If you are not in the habit of checking the condition of your shoes, it is time to start.

If you are not in the habit of concealing your cell phone, minding your table manners, replying to invitations, using polite terms or taking care of your shoes, you just might find that people are not in the habit of doing business with you.

Forget making those annual resolutions and start think instead of developing habits that will grow your business and add to your bottom line.

Photo from Savanah magazine

Lydia Ramsey is a business etiquette expert, sought-after speaker, trainer, author and newspaper columnist who is on a mission to stamp out rudeness and enhance professional conduct in the workplace. She is the author of Manners That Sell – Adding the Polish That Builds Profits and Lydia Ramsey’s Little Book of Table Manners.

Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website at to leave a comment, ask a question or learn more about her programs and products for businesses, corporations, associations, colleges and universities. She is always ready to talk or travel.





Ten Dressing Faux Pas That Can Tarnish Your Professional Image

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It’s the morning rush hour. I’m not talking about the traffic you might encounter after you head out the door. I am referring to the chaos that occurs before you even cross the threshold. Whatever your morning routine, somehow there are things that manage to go awry.

You plan as much as you can the night before. However, if you have children that you need to get off to school, there is breakfast to prepare or at least supervise. Possibly lunches to pack. Then you need to make sure that everyone is dressed in the appropriate school garb. If you have pets, they have to be tended to as well before you leave for the day.

Whew! If that’s not enough, you have to get yourself ready for work. Waiting until the last minute to decide what to wear to work is not the best idea. If you’re savvy, you decide upon your workplace attire the night before. Chances are you won’t have time to ponder it in the morning.

The goal in choosing what you wear to work is to look your best—your professional best. No matter where you work and what is appropriate for that environment, there are certain details that if overlooked can ruin a good impression.

Here are a few things to check before you make your exit.

  1. If you have pets that shed, check your outfit for cat or dog hair. Fur is not considered office appropriate. Keep a roller brush handy.
  2. Do you see wrinkles? Maybe your colleagues or clients will assume they occurred on the way to work, but don’t count on it. Blow the dust off the iron, plug it in and use it.
  3. Take a look in the mirror—always a good thing—and survey the length of your pants. Are they bunched up with the hem dragging the floor? When you buy pants for work, remember that the hem of your pants should hit at the top of your foot, not below. If they don’t meet the test, visit a tailor.
  4. On the subject of pants, glance at the hem again. If the hem is frayed, put that pair in the donations pile and find ones that are in pristine condition.
  5. Count your accessories. A few pieces of jewelry will dress up your outfit, but don’t overdo it. Wearing a dozen bracelets can be distracting to the person you are trying to impress. And while you have ten fingers, they do not all need to be adorned with rings. One per hand is sufficient.
  6. Hair ties are not bracelets. If you have long hair and want to pull it back occasionally, keep a few ties in your desk drawer or in your purse, not on your wrist.
  7. Check the condition of your shoes. Nothing tells people how little attention you pay to detail as shoes that are scuffed or worn. There are people who check out your shoes before noting anything else.
  8. Do your clothes fit? Are you still trying to squeeze yourself into an outfit you “outgrew” months ago? Looking professional means wearing clothes that fit your body, not that of someone you used to be or hope to be again.
  9. Take time to dry your hair. Showing up for work with wet hair says, “I am running late” or “Who cares how my hair looks.”
  10. Hide your bra straps. (I can’t believe I just said that.) More women are showing up at work wearing blouses or dresses with little or no sleeves. While I am not a fan of sleeveless in the workplace; if you go that route, make sure that you aren’t advertising your choice of undergarments to the office.

When dressing for work, the smallest details count if you want to keep your professional image and your reputation intact as well as be respected by both colleagues and clients.

Clean, neat, pressed and fresh trump grungy every time.

Photo from Savanah magazine

Lydia Ramsey is business etiquette and modern manners expert, keynote speaker, seminar leader and author of Manners That Sell-Adding the Polish That Builds Profits. Based in Savannah, Georgia, she travels across the US and as far away as India and Dubai to work with clients that include universities, corporations, small businesses, associations and non-profit organizations. Her topics range from flip-flops to forks. Visit her website for more information about her services and resources. If you prefer to talk, call her at 912-604-0080.