We’re in awe of the team at Avantgarde. Every day our employees go out and create memorable live communication campaigns and still find the time to change the world in their spare time. Take our Munich-based employee Julia Hug for example. Apart from covering our managing director Vera’s back on a daily basis, Julia is also a trained business etiquette specialist and a board member of the German Knigge Society, a respected institution on good manners.
When some of our workmates were full of praise of her when they returned from a “Knigge dinner” with Julia, we forced her to sit through an interview for our blog:
Julia, how does one become a board member of the German Knigge Society?
Ever since I was a child have been sensitised to the subject of good manners. Decent behaviour was very important to my parents. That’s why they liked to take their children for brunch at a fancy hotel. We started with a balance of 5 Deutsche mark. Everything we did “right” meant an additional 50 pennies, every “wrong” action meant 50 pennies less. That’s why I gave the good manners expert at a mere 6 years of age – and always had the most pocket money!
What are common pitfalls when meeting business contacts?
A soft handshake and wrong handling of business cards – these are some common mistakes. A self-assured appearance is the be-all and end-all! It’s the first impression that counts and will stick with you like a chewing gum on your shoe.
In our business, we frequently sit down for dinner with clients. How do we pull off pretending to be well-mannered?
During a business dinner the most mistakes occur. Skilled usage of your cutlery is a given. One piece of advice: Avoid ordering difficult dishes in difficult situations. The more nerve-wrecking a meeting is the more common your dish should be. Better not go for spaghetti with king prawns, mussels, or lobster. And leave your smartphone in your pocket!
We all write tons of e-mails every day. What are common mistakes people make in written communication?
In the age of WhatsApp and lack of time we’ve gotten used to omit traditional polite phrases, even a simple ‘Hi’. We abbreviate everything, even our own names – unless we leave it out altogether. Also, academic titles are often omitted or used incorrectly when addressing others.
Good manners come in handy when socializing. What should small talk cover and what topics should be avoided?
Good small talk subjects are: weather, job, literature, film, mutual friends, holidays, compliments, positive things… But behold: It’s not enough to briefly touch on a subject. Show your interest, listen and react to what others say. Focus on the conversational partner and make him or her feel good. These are the key rules for successful small talk. Politics, money or religion are strictly off limits!
A successful experiential marketing project often ends with a party. How much alcohol is acceptable if I want to keep my client happy?
You’ll get funny looks both as a heavy drinker and a teetotaller. Just drink with modesty and avoid appearing intoxicated!