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American Marketing Association hosts etiquette dinner for students

On the evening of Thursday, Feb. 23, the UMaine chapter of the American Marketing Association (AMA) hosted an etiquette dinner for students. The event took place at the Buchanan Alumni house from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. and was open to students of all years, majors and affiliations.

AMA was founded in 1953. They have 370 nationally recognized student-led chapters with over 11,000 student members.

The dinner began with registration and seating by members of the organization from 5:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. Welcome remarks were given by Mindy Downing, AMA chapter president; Karen Lucky, AMA chapter vice-president and Connor Allan, AMA chapter treasurer. The program presentation was led by Paula Paradis, an alumnus of the University of Maine class of 1971 and a certified business etiquette consultant.

In the program book given to each student, a quote from Jacqueline Whitmore, founder of the Protocol School of Palm Beach and author of “Business Class” stated, “Etiquette is a set of rules and guidelines that make your personal and professional relationships more harmonious, productive, manageable, and meaningful. Business etiquette is a powerful, practical, profitable skill you can use when it most counts to succeed on the job.”

The dinner began at 6 p.m. The menu included the first course of tomato garden vegetable soup, second course of caesar salad and rolls, third and main course of either almond crusted chicken or barbequed house smoked tofu “steak” and the fourth course of chocolate swirl cheesecake and coffee or tea.

Topics of conversation included “mastering your mingle-ability,” “winning the name game,” “six things you should know before you network” and “the art of the meal.” Students were given tips for the perfect handshake, such as “stand and shake,” making sure each handshake is firm and accompanied by a smile and how in a business setting, either a man or woman can initiate the handshake; however in a social setting, it is acceptable for a man to wait for a woman to initiate it.

Ten tips for remembering names included repeating a person’s name in conversation and in your head, associating names with other people or visuals and to start lightly — don’t try to remember too many names at once.

A quote from Dale Carnegie in the program book about networking said, “You can make more friends in two months by becoming more interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.” The tips include to make friends first, help others before helping yourself and to understand that everyone you meet is a potential contact.

The “art of the meal” section included fifteen most common dining mistakes and how to avoid them. These included that bread should not be eaten as a whole slice or even two halves. A person must break off bite-size pieces at a time, butter them and then eat them. They must also pass both the salt and pepper shakers together if someone asks, even if they only ask for one. You cannot apply lipstick or touch your hair at the table. After using a sugar or sweetener, you must fold the paper and place it underneath the saucer of your bread plate. It is also not necessary to thank a server each time you are served and you must wait until everyone at your table is served to start eating.

Other tips given regarded to napkin placement, toasting others, wine etiquette, host and guest duties during the meal, RSVP etiquette, various place settings including simple, formal and six-course, how to properly eat soup, bread, how to properly hold silverware, how to signal if you are “resting” during your meal or if you are “finished,” and how to properly say thank you.

Dining do’s and don’t’s included do try some of everything, do cut one piece at a time, don’t put your handbag or cell phone on the table and don’t bring your face to the plate — bring your fork to your mouth.

Memorabilia given at the event included an eti-quiz, a way to test your dining etiquette skills; a map of a formal place setting; a sheet with 10 tips for success in networking, a brochure of etiquette tips and pointers and a packet of the powerpoint slides presented at the event.

AMA plans to make the etiquette dinner an annual event. Besides the event on Thursday evening, the last dinner hosted was in the spring of 2015. Mindy Downing, current president of the UMaine chapter of AMA, joined the club as a junior in the fall of 2015 and was elected president in April of 2016 for the 2016-2017 school year.

“We have successfully hosted this dinner in the past and wanted to host it again. This event provides students with a very interactive lesson on fine etiquette dining. We bring in a guest speaker (Paula Paradis – Class of 1971) who teaches the lesson, while students enjoy a four-course meal and put their new skills to work. At the end of the evening, we provide them with take home packets to help them remember the skills they learned and to provide additional information for different type of fine dining situations like six-course meals. We hope to give students from all majors an opportunity to learn these type of etiquette skills so they will be able to impress potential employers and colleagues if they ever find themselves invited to a dinner for an interview or a work function. We also aim to give them confidence, and help them grow professionally. There is also a need for this type of training on campus, and the Career Center has been highly supportive of this event, and loves that we are able to host it so close to the Career Fair,” Downing said.

Downing said she and the organization were initially nervous about the attendance of the free event, but successfully filled all 104 seats available. To her knowledge, this was the first year the event was free and it was their largest dinner yet. There was even a waitlist for students as it was an extremely popular event. “We felt bad we couldn’t accommodate everyone. The chapter plans to make this event bigger next year, and is going to attempt to gain sponsorship for 150 students to attend this event and move it to the Wells Conference Center on campus.”

“The event was free due to all of our wonderful sponsors. I personally enjoyed the evening, and I loved meeting the students who sat at my table, which included both undergraduates and graduate students. I liked how Paula was able to teach us how to identify all of the different types of silverware one might find on the table, and how to use the silverware for clues on how many different courses were being served that evening. Although we had a four-course meal, I felt confident that I could handle any type of dinner situation I may be placed in with a varying number of courses due to Paula’s etiquette lesson,” she said.

Downing is a senior, double majoring in marketing and management.

Sponsors included UMaine Student Government, the University of Maine Foundation, the University of Maine Alumni Association, Dean of the MBS (Maine Business School) Ivan Manev, Dr. John Mahon (MBS Professor), Pat’s Pizza and Abe and Heather Furth (Owners of Woodman’s, Verve and Orono Brewing Company).

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