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Connecting business to the dinner table

What fork you use and how you pass the bread at a formal dinner can tell others at the table a lot about how you do business, says Fatima di Valentin.The dining etiquette expert was at Brock University Oct. 26 to facilitate Goodman Career’s annual Etiquette Dinner, where she coached 100 students on proper etiquette while navigating a three-course meal served up by Sodexo.Beyond receiving advice about where hands should be placed during a meal (always above the table) and how salt and pepper should be passed (always together), students learned that dining with panache can go a long way in making a good impression in business.Dining etiquette expert Fatima di Valentin facilitated Goodman Career’s annual Etiquette Dinner Oct. 26 by coaching 100 students through a three-course meal.“Dining etiquette rounds students’ education up and gives them the polish. They’ve got the meat of what they need to know from their classes, but this is really polishing up their skills,” said di Valentin.“When they go out into the world of work and they’re interfacing with all sorts of different people, they can do it with all the confidence that they’ve got the awareness of how to dine properly.”During her past experience as a college professor, di Valentin identified a learning gap when she noticed some of her best students struggling with interactions in formal settings.After incorporating dining etiquette lessons into her own classes, she discovered a passion for etiquette, business and cultural protocols and is now a sought-after expert who works on dining awareness with a wide variety of clients from diplomats to wedding couples and children.“The fascinating thing about etiquette is that there is so much to learn,” she said. “We have less than three hours at this event to learn in a ‘living lab’ so students are able to hear a strategy and then implement it right away. That experiential learning is helpful to ensure that it really sinks in.”The event, sponsored by Chartered Professional Accountants of Ontario (CPA Ontario), is one that has high value for students who will soon be joining the workforce.“Having good etiquette and professionalism is key to doing good business,” said Catherine Millar, CPA Ontario student recruiter.“Knowing good etiquette will help you when you are in front of some very important people,” she said, adding the organization focuses on helping students develop more than just technical skills.Fourth-year business student Jenny Doan attended the event for the second time, giving her a chance to brush up on skills she learned last year.“I’ve noticed in my experience that business is often conducted in dinner or lunch settings,” she said.“I’ve had dinners and lunches at past co-op jobs with colleagues, suppliers and clients and have also had interviews with potential employers that included dinner, so knowing these types of things is crucial to making a good impression and differentiating yourself.” read more