As we make final preparations for this year’s National Business Etiquette Week, we checked in with Madelyn Ridgeway—an event planner from Waterloo, IA—and winner of last year’s NBEW Contest where we asked entrants to explain why they would like to be the next Business Etiquette Superstar. Today, Madelyn updates us on what she learned with her recent PSOW experience, how she benefited from the training and how she plans to be a “bright light” superstar in promoting etiquette.
Madelyn, tell us about your complimentary training as winner of last year’s National Business Etiquette Week contest? What class did you attend and what was the experience like?
I attended the November session of the Intercultural Etiquette and Protocol training.
The experience was phenomenal! The entire PSOW team was professional and knowledgeable. I felt like part of a family from the first night at the reception. The education I received was beyond what I imagined, and each of the instructors was willing to share their knowledge and help each of the participants.
What were the top 3 takeaways from your training as it relates to business etiquette and protocol? What resonated with you the most?
Choosing only three takeaways is tough! One of the biggest takeaways and probably the one that resonated the most with me was the need for international and intercultural etiquette. I never thought about that need much before my training, but in the global economy we live in today, knowledge of other’s cultures and etiquette can be the secret weapon in a business person’s arsenal.
I gained considerable knowledge and skills from the speaker boot camp. Irvine’s gentle leading help me develop more confidence in my presentation and take note of my areas of improvement.
Other takeaways included; the great need for proper introductions and the many aspects of protocol and the reasons behind them; so many things in this training genuinely fascinated me.
Did you have any preconceived notions about etiquette and/or protocol that your training dispelled?
Yes, a small one. I went into the training feeling strongly that many people were wrong about etiquette and looking for ways to disprove the notion that etiquette is some sort of box. One of our instructors said to us, “When people talk about don’t put them in a box, we are the box!” I laughed at first but realized that it is true; etiquette and protocol are boxes, but they are boxes that when appropriately used as tools in your “business tool belt,” they can be invaluable.
As last year’s winner for the NBEW contest, your award-winning entry revealed why you wanted to become the next Business Etiquette Superstar. Why do you think today’s business world needs more visible etiquette advocates and role models?
So much of the negative connotation around business etiquette and protocol comes from a lack of knowledge about the power knowing and practicing these skills gives a person. I realized I have to do more to educate my clients and others about the need and benefits of being etiquette savvy in business.
Did your training with the PSOW give you new ideas to implement in your special event planning business?
It did! Many of my clients are businesses and non-profits that originated in the Midwest, where the culture tends to be more casual and informal. The need to learn proper protocol and etiquette for events has never been emphasized. I’ve found that my training has allowed me to add another level of service to those clients that most event planners can’t or don’t offer.
You also mentioned that you wanted to start teaching business etiquette classes in addition to your special event planning. Have you been able to do this or combine both aspects into your business?
I’ve started working with organizations and institutions in ways I had never thought of before. I’m now offering events that center around learning business etiquette in a fun learning environment with the idea being that not only does it help you learn things like proper introductions and excellent networking skills, it also enables you to develop who you are as a professional. The course is called “Developing your Professional Presence,” and the weekend “boot camp” for college students is called “Developing your Professional Presence Academy.”
The first Academy is planned for this summer and targets college juniors and seniors.
In our previous interview, you talked about the power of business etiquette and why it’s so important—especially to young people just starting out in the business world. Why should we continue to reinforce these “rules of behavior” for young professionals?
We should continue to reinforce these “rules of behavior” because although times have changed over the last 50 years, the basic rules of being a polished professional have not. Workplaces may be more casual, but the standards such as useful emails, correct handshakes, and proper introductions remain.
Several years ago, I read a book on generations in the workplace, and one of the guiding principles in the book was that the generation in charge primarily set the standard for the company and industry. Today we see many millennials filling new positions in the workplace, but we also mainly see Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers managing those millennials. Traditional workplace etiquette and protocol is something both the Baby Boomers and Gen X’ers were taught, and most successful managers still use today (it contributes to their success as managers). This leaves a generation of millennials who need power the business etiquette offers.
We loved your quote about the effect that a “bright star” can have on those around her. How does being an etiquette professional help you cast a positive light on others?
I could write about this for many days. The stories I could tell about the doors business etiquette has opened for me and continues to open are many. Because of my business etiquette knowledge, I am able to walk confidently into most situations and be comfortable in my abilities as a person and professional. It allows me to work well with others, which, sadly, isn’t always found in today’s workplace. I’ve found out after several of my interviews from people I’ve listed as references that my potential employers asked primarily about my soft skills and not my education. This speaks volumes to me in that an employer is more interested in my ability to interact effectively and harmoniously with my associates than they are my educational background. It demonstrates the great need for our skill set in the marketplace.
What would you tell a prospective student thinking of attending a PSOW session?
Jump in and do it! The world needs what we have to offer now more than ever. Join us as we build an army of bright shining lights! I realize the financial and time investments are significant, and that’s one reason I am very thankful I was afforded the scholarship opportunity however, the return on your investment is great and well worth it.
As someone with a background in the education field, I can say this training was tier 1 instruction and value.
Check out Madelyn's winning entry from 2018: The Next Business Etiquette Superstar