Originally created 04/03/00

Etiquette important part of business



Todd Gaines knows that it pays to be well groomed.

We're not talking about a $5 haircut; we're talking about the real effort it takes to enhance skills that will improve job perfor-mance.

Mr. Gaines, operations manag-er at Kimberly-Clark, has been in Toastmasters on and off since 1982. Toastmasters is an international organization devoted to improving speaking, listening and leadership abilities. But there are other opportunities throughout the community to add the polish necessary for professionals to shine among their peers.

"Toastmasters is nothing more than an augmentation of things you learn by trial and error, but it puts it into a more organized manner so you can become a more polished speaker," Mr. Gaines said. "Every week I'm doing presentations with my co-workers and superiors where we are talking about operations and decisions that have to be made. It's key that I'm able to articulate these things clearly to them because we are making big business decisions."

Jennie Roberts, president of a newly chartered Toastmasters club in Evans, said her organization appeals to those professionals who are trying to develop or advance within their organization. Her club meets twice a month, but other clubs in the area meet weekly. During the meeting, members deliver formal speeches on topics they choose, practice impromptu speaking and critique other speakers.

James Harris, associate director for supply administration at Medical College of Georgia, joined Toastmasters in November to improve his public speaking skills.

"The majority of my professional life I've had to talk in front of people, and the only training I've had is a college speech class," he said. "I feel I have a need to improve and polish what I already know, and I believe that by being a part of Toastmasters I can do that."

The skills he's learned at the meetings have been valuable on the job, he said. Every month he has a meeting where he must stand before employees for a presentation, and he has daily meetings with vendors and employees.

"Communicating is a tool that can be of assistance in almost any situation -- whether you are working on a contracting issue, a personnel problem or even in your personal life," Mr. Harris said.

Augusta State University also offers continuing education courses to help professionals in their careers. On June 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., the school will offer a course called "Keeping Our Feet Out of Our Mouths: Communicating & Speaking."

"This is something that was requested of us by some businesses that wanted to have a place where they could send their really good employees who have reached a ceiling where they could rise no more because of their communication skills," said Freddie Flynt, senior program coordinator for Augusta State's continuing education division. "These people are faithful, dependable, honest, great workers who would have a great future at their company, but they are at one of those places where they just can go no higher. It's something they can't help -- you can't really blame someone for where they came from or what they heard at home growing up."

Lydia Ramsey Inc. specializes in teaching etiquette courses and dining skills for professionals. In her courses, such as the one recently offered at Augusta State, she covers such topics as: how to make a positive first impression, greetings and introductions, the basics of handshaking and appropriate business attire.

With today's global market, companies also are turning to her to learn international protocol and how to interact with people from other countries.

Carole Ann Mackey, owner of The Communication Experts, an Atlanta-based company, will be teaching a course June 28 at Augusta State titled, "How to Meet People for Business Success."

In today's highly competitive environment, she said, knowing how to conduct yourself with confidence and ease can determine whether you get the job, land the contract or move up the corporate ladder.

"Competition is really great now; people are having to compete with the Internet and the regular retail kinds of trade," said Ms. Mackey. "The consumer is more sophisticated now than they were even five years ago, simply because of all the knowledge and information that's available on the Web and in the media. Customers are expecting more, and they are not willing to put up with the things they have in the past as far as customer service."

"People understand the value of manners in business," Ms. Ramsey said. "When I teach these courses, there is so much interest in it. They are hungry to know what's the right thing to do.

Reach Melissa Hall at (706) 868-1222, Ext. 113, or ccchron@augustachronicle.com.


About Toastmasters Continuing education Toastmasters, call Jennie Roberts at 651-8481.

Augusta State University, call 737-1636, or visit the school's Web site at www.ced.aug.edu.

Augusta Technical Institute, call 771-4021

Aiken Technical College, call (803) 593-9954.

University of South Carolina Aiken, call (803) 641-3288.