Business Etiquette

CPC Business Development

You’ll find that business associates are much less forgiving about etiquette faux pas than your friends and family. Be sure you know what’s expected and follow the guidelines here:


  • If you remember one thing about introductions, remember this: whoever has the most gold, whether it is a financial, social, or political fortune, is deemed the most honoured. Power and hierarchy determine introductions in the business world; the person who has the greatest honour takes precedence. Therefore, the person of lesser honour is always introduced to the person of greater honour. Let this distinction distinguish you, not extinguish you!
  • Introductions usually call for a handshake in most cultures. Shake hands with clients or business colleagues each time you meet and when you part.


  • During your presentation, pause for sips of warm water (not cold) with lemon as this will help to relax your vocal cords.  Because dairy products produce phlegm, avoid partaking in items like milk and yogurt for 24 hours before your presentation.
  • Don’t hold anything in your hands unless you are using it. Otherwise, you could end up playing with it, which is distracting for your audience.
  • Always thank participants for attending. They will appreciate your acknowledgments when you do that.
  • At the end of your presentation, promptly go to the exit door and shake hands with attendees as they leave. Don’t get trapped on the podium or behind the lectern.


  • Casual Friday—For men, Casual Friday means wearing casual slacks and shirts or sweaters. For women, crop pants and culottes are acceptable. It’s not acceptable to wear jeans, shorts, and running shoes unless your industry has adopted that style.
  • Informal—For men, Informal means wearing casual pants and a shirt. For women, it means a well-pressed pair of pants and a blouse, shirt, or sweater, or a casual dress.
  • Semi-formal—For men, Semi-formal requires a suit, a shirt and tie. For women, it can be a cocktail-length dress or a long skirt with a blouse. A dress pantsuit is also suitable for women.
  • Black Tie Formal—For men, Black Tie means wearing a tuxedo. For women, Formal means floor-length gowns or cocktail-length dresses. Women should never wear anything too revealing or too short.
  • Always graciously accept compliments about how you are dressed. It’s not appropriate to ask others where they purchased an item of clothing and/or how much it cost.


  • As long as someone isn’t under food restrictions, giving a fruit basket can be a wise gift choice.
  • Journalists aren’t allowed to accept gifts in the capacity of their employment.
  • A gift certificate is considered an acceptable gift for members of your staff during the holidays. If you receive a gift from your boss during the holidays, you’re not expected to reciprocate.
  • If you know that the person in the hospital enjoys receiving flowers, check first with the hospital staff before bringing them into a room. Many people suffer from allergies that can be aggravated by flowers.
  • Always write “thank you” notes by hand and mention the gift giver as well as the specific gift. Acknowledge the person for the effort that went into selecting and/or wrapping the gift. An extra-nice touch is to mention how and when you will use this gift where appropriate.

Margaret Page, a Vancouver-based etiquette and protocol consultant, helps people adopt proper etiquette to advance their careers and improve their lives. She can be reached at or or 604.885.0208.

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