Office of Career Services

Etiquette Dinner teaches valuable business skills

  • Diane Gottsman, founder of The Protocol School of Texas, trains students on business etiquette
    Diane Gottsman, founder of The Protocol School of Texas, trains students on business etiquette
  • A properly appointed table
    A properly appointed table

On October 21, 2009, Career Services hosted the 15th annual Etiquette Dinner, featuring Diane Gottsman, nationally recognized etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas, and a free, four-course meal.  Students learned critical dining and networking skills they will use their whole professional lifes.  The Williamson County Sun also reported on the event.

The difference between landing a job and missing the opportunity can often be traced to how well you handle yourself while dodging an airborne cherry tomato or maneuvering a difficult piece of chicken. Second interviews are often conducted over a meal, giving the interviewer a chance to observe how you conduct yourself under pressure. Dining skills are critical in today’s competitive business market where most of our relationships are built on trust, competence and a good meal. There is much more to dining than simply bringing a fork to your mouth and chewing, and those who master this art will show a greater degree of poise and confidence throughout the interview.   

On October 21, students from Southwestern University sat down to a four-course meal and learned much more than just the pertinent points of dining. Diane Gottsman has conducted the Southwestern University Annual Etiquette Dinner for the past seven years.  This year’s dinner was co-sponsored by Sodexho, Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Sherwin Williams.

Diane is a sought-after industry expert and is regularly featured on various television stations, including Austin Fox 7 News, KTVT Channel 11 in Dallas and Channel 4 SA Living Show in San Antonio.  Diane has been quoted locally, regionally and nationally in print publications such as The New York Times, Working Woman, Martha Stewart, Quick and Simple, Details Magazine and Empowered Woman and has warranted the front cover of San Antonio Woman and Empowered Women, just to name a few publications. Diane is also frequently quoted on major websites including,,, and several others. For further reference, visit her website at

Diane teaches students how to handle themselves in various business situations, among them networking events, fundraisers, board meetings and lunch or dinner with a client.  Potential employers want to see how their future employees will handle themselves in various business situations.  “Imagine trying to talk big business over a meal when you are having difficulty handling a small olive with a pit,” laughs Gottsman.  

According to research done by Harvard University, The Carnegie Foundation and the Stanford Research Institute, technical skills account for less than 15 percent of one’s value in obtaining a job, keeping a job or advancing in a job.  More than 85 percent of job success is based on personal conduct and the ability to put others at ease.  Career Services at Southwestern University feels that there is an obvious advantage to honing your professional etiquette and dining skills in preparation for graduation and the world of work.  Roger Young, director of Career Services at Southwestern University, says, “I have seen many bright students with outstanding GPAs fumble an interview because of poor social skills.  It is our goal to prepare the student for the world of work, both educationally and professionally.  Etiquette skills provide our students with much needed tools to succeed in the professional arena.”

A few other little-known rules of the dining table are:

  • Salt and pepper are “married.”  They are always passed together – even if only salt is requested.
  • Bread, S&P, gravy and butter are passed counter-clockwise.
  • Bread plate on the left, drinks on the right.
  • You have only once chance to adjust your plate during the meal.
  • Don’t push your plate away at the end of a meal.
  • Never use your napkin to blow your nose or sneeze.
  • Cough or sneeze into your left shoulder, covering your mouth with your left hand.
  • There are two standard styles of dining, American and Continental.
  • Do not cut your spaghetti unless you are five years old or younger.
  • Men’s ties stay down during the meal, not over the shoulder or tucked in the shirt.
  • You don’t want to be the first or the last to finish the meal.
  • You invite, you pay, you tip.

For more information and tips on etiquette, view our etiquette resources page.