Rob: How did the etiquette classes start?
Myka: Partnering with The Plaza Hotel felt very organic. My office for Beaumont Etiquette is just a few blocks away in Columbus Circle, so I was teaching there and then taking clients to The Palm Court for lunch or afternoon tea. As my office can only hold 9 students at once, I had always dreamt of starting a much more grande finishing school with a partner that valued the same exceptional service and overall fabulous guest experience…and the idea for The Plaza Hotel Finishing Program was born! We offer modern and exciting group courses for adults that focus on finishing details that cover everything including formal dining, handshakes, how to introduce people, how to network at meetings or weddings, or even just common etiquette when it comes to dating. We offer short 2 hour evening courses on select Wednesdays in The Palm Court called Plaza Proper courses, which are about 22 people per session. For those who want a more intensive course, we offer Saturday Finishing Program, which is an all day course at the hotel.
Rob: What question comes up the most in your classes?
Myka: General dining questions come up the most. Questions about business networking come up, for example - how do you start (and keep!) a conversation? Networking is simple if you know a few important components: Body language is important; don’t be late; don’t look down at your phone; understanding conversation starters, as well as topics you should never talk about upon first meeting someone. In our classes we learn about how you can look more approachable at networking events, how to get out of a conversation, and how to start a conversation. This class is called the Business & Networking Etiquette class.
Our Intensive courses on Saturdays last about five hours and teach individuals over 100 different topics, covering everything from dining to dressing etiquette. We have incredible partners that we work with that allow us to teach things like how to pick the perfect diamond or how to properly tie a tie. It is important to remember that etiquette is always evolving…but not matter what year we are in, the core of etiquette is all about showing respect.
Rob: So this is a big one. Tell us about social media and manners.
Myka: First impressions are everything. 85% of people Google names which means social media is their first impression before they even meet you. I always say; if you don’t want your boss or grandparents to see it, do not post it. Watch hashtags, make sure you are not tagged in certain hashtags that would be inappropriate to an outsider. Watch out for text language, texting language should never be used in emails. Simple things like thanks vs. thank you make all the difference.
Rob: Speaking of thank you’s – what is the best way to send a thank you letter?
Myka: You should never start a letter with “thank you for xyz” it should begin first with something you enjoyed. So if you were thanking someone for hosting you at an event you might start with “Dear Lucy, Your fundraising dinner was simply stunning and I’m still in awe of the attention to every beautiful detail.” Then proceed with “Thank you for such a lovely invitation to celebrate the XX cause.” or something along those lines. Then, when ending letters or emails, the most formal is “Best regards”.
RDA: How do you navigate conversations during this political climate?
Myka: Unless you are sure someone will agree with your political views, it is best to just not bring it up. Check your motives, what are you trying to achieve? Show respect no matter how much you may disagree with what is being discussed. Agree to disagree. You could say “I respect your opinion, I feel differently so let’s just agree to disagree”. It is best to just stay away from debates if possible.
Image: Adeline Ramos/You Look Lovely Photography
Myka: Modern etiquette is less gender specific and more about respect. Think about the elevator rule, who holds the door when getting in the elevator? It is the person who wants to show the other person respect. You would hold the door for your client who is entering the elevator. You should never assume that it will be the gentleman. Another good example is the revolving door. In school I was told that the man should go in first so that the woman does not have to push the door, but then you have a woman standing outside alone. I challenged this and said that the man (or person showing the other person respect) pushes the door, the lady goes in, and then you continue to push as you enter after. The same goes for walking outside on the sidewalk. The man (or whomever wants to show respect) should stand on the curbside of the side walk, leaving the guest inside and away from the street.
Rob: What is proper etiquette regarding food allergies & preferences - being a vegetarian or vegan for example - either at a private dinner or large event? Do you tell your host so they are prepared do you hope they will have something to accommodate you?
Myka: Hopefully in these situations, the host would ask. However if they do not, you could tell them “I hope it is not an inconvenience, however I am allergic to xyz. Please do let me know if you were planning to make a dish with xyz in it, and if so, I would love to bring a dish without xyz that I can share with everyone if you like?” Usually a gracious host however will accommodate all their guests needs so they do not need to bring anything.
Rob: In these modern times, is it still proper to serve a table by serving a woman first? I had always thought you served the oldest woman at the table first.
Myka: The way it works is that you would serve the VIP woman first, and then serve around the table to the right, serving the other women as well. Then you start with the most VIP man and serve around the table to the right. In many instances, the woman considered the VIP may very well be the most senior woman at the table. VIP 1 is placed usually to the right of the host, and VIP 2 is to the left. The cohost will sit across from the host, and from there you try to make the placement man, woman, man, woman where possible. If you have more women than men or vice versa, you just seat and serve based on who is most VIP at the table.
Rob: When in a manners crisis where you don’t know what to do, what do you do?
Myka: Just go with your gut. If it does not feel right, don’t do it. Etiquette is about being kind, thoughtful, considerate, and simply putting others first!
For more information on Myka's etiquette classes: www.beaumontetiquette.com