On Oct. 2, 75-plus Carolina students, clad in their professional attire, gathered in the Carolina Inn’s posh Old Well Room for the Beyond Carolina Etiquette Dinner, hosted annually by the University Office for Diversity and Inclusion. For the fifth year, renowned author and etiquette expert Patricia Rossi was the keynote speaker, addressing how to behave appropriately in professional settings and key ways to be successful at self-branding.
Patricia Rossi began the evening’s presentation by sharing an anecdote about her family and how she grew up. Her mom passed away when she was 10, causing her to feel “awkward and weird.” She was tired of feeling this way, and after bumping into her teacher while dropping her dad off at jail, she received a gift that changed her life. Her teacher handed her an etiquette book and said, “You should read this.” Not only did she read it from cover to cover, but she learned to live by the advice she gleaned and eventually realized that it made her more confident in herself.
Rossi was quick to note that good etiquette is not “chichi poopoo.” Instead, following its tenets allows people to feel more comfortable and included. She then went on to impart her wisdom, giving students some keys to success in settings that may feel uncomfortable, such as business events. “When you speak to someone, you should always focus on ‘Toes, Tummy, Heart,’” she said, meaning that your toes should face the person with whom you are talking and you should maintain eye contact.
Participants were also taught how to hold utensils, at what pace they should eat, and what is expected when the bill arrives. “It is important that we learn these things in order to be able to focus on why we are at the event in the first place,” she said.
“How you enter the room, how you stand and the handshake you give can all portray an image of you before you even open your mouth. Portraying that you are credible and confident can make a difference in how people perceive you or even if they believe what you are about to say,” she explained.
Along those lines, she reminded students that proper self-branding is crucial. “You are branding yourself at all times whether you know it or not,” she said. “Our first impression to someone may be through social media rather than in person.”
Students attended this event out of a combination of curiosity and desire for self-improvement. “I came to learn how to network and learn to put myself out there more,” one student told her tablemates during dinner. “I have social anxiety, and it sometimes prevents me from interacting with people.” By the time the event was over, she shared that she felt “more confident in every aspect of my social life” and “gained more than I thought I would from tonight.”
Students received Rossi’s book and were invited to have it signed and speak to her before the event was over. By the end of the night, Rossi became a person that students felt comfortable with and will continue to keep in contact with. The event allowed students to realize that having confidence in yourself is half the battle. “If you don’t believe in yourself why would you expect a future employer, professor or anyone for that matter?” asked Rossi.
Indeed, she made believers out of the entire group, who will now go forward with impeccable social skills, self-branding and confidence.
Written by Casey P. Jones