A week ago Dan Surface, motivational speaker, author and publisher of Monday Morning SuperCharge, invited me to be a guest on his weekly newsletter that includes a five-minute live audio interview. Naturally, the focus of our online conversation was how business etiquette can help you super charge your career. Dan did not know that asking me to participate in a five-minute interview was like asking a politician to make a few brief remarks. The five minutes stretched into ten before Dan could pull the plug.
One of the first questions Dan asked was about the biggest business etiquette faux pas that people commit today. In a world where rudeness is rampant, it’s hard to narrow the list. Business people constantly violate the rules of etiquette with their e-mail practices, their phone behaviors, especially with regard to the use and abuse of cell phones, their casual attitude toward professional dress, their inattention to proper table manners and their lack of courtesy in dealing with customers and coworkers. However in considering one area where the majority of business people come up short, it is in appropriately responding to invitations.
“RSVP” seems to be Greek to most. Actually it is French, and it stands for the phrase, “Repondez, s’il vouz plait” or “Please respond.” The practice of asking for a response to an invitation has been around at least since the time of the court of the French king, Louis XIV. It must have been about that time that people needed to be reminded to reply to invitations.
The minute you receive an invitation, whether it is for a business luncheon or dinner, an after-hours reception, the wedding of a client or colleague, a casual office get-together or any business/social event, check your calendar. Your next step is to respond.. Don’t put off replying unless you need additional information or have to check with someone else. The person issuing the invitation needs to know as soon as possible how any people will be attending in order to plan properly. Be considerate.
“RSVP” clearly means to reply one way or the other. It does not mean reply if you feel like it or only if you are coming. The words “Regrets Only” mean just that. Send a response only if you don’t plan to attend.
Respond in the manner that the host suggests. If a phone number is given, you may call. If a postal address is on the invitation, your reply is expected in writing. If an e-mail address is listed, head for your computer.
Once you have replied, do what you said you would do. If you said you would be there, go. If you responded that you couldn’t attend, don’t decide at the last minute to go. If something comes up to prevent you from attending, let your host know as soon as possible. If you can’t do so before the event, contact the host first thing the next day to explain your absence and to apologize.
Take note of who is invited. If the invitation reads “and guest,” you make take a friend. If you see the words, “and family,” take the kids. If it is addressed to you alone, go by yourself.
The whole purpose for “RSVP” is so the host can plan the food and venue for the right number of guests. When people fail to reply to invitations, those planning the event are at a distinct disadvantage. There is always the risk that there will be too much or not enough food. A firm that I work with recently had a party for their clients and colleagues. Thirteen people replied that they would attend, but forty showed up. Of course, there wasn’t enough for everyone to eat or drink. How inconsiderate is that?
The rule for responding to any invitation is to reply immediately, say what you will do and do what you say. Next time you may be the one planning an event and you won’t want to be left in the dark, waiting to see who shows up.
Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.
Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions. Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.
Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.