SU Etiquette Dinner and the question of breaking the bread

By Alanna Dent, Staff Writer

According to Holly Johnson, an expert writer of, “A recent study conducted by Millennial Branding and American Express showed that 61 percent of managers surveyed felt that soft skills were more important in new hires than hard skills, or even technical skills.”

The book “The economics of inequality, poverty, and discrimination in the 21st century” by Robert Rycroft goes so far as to say “86 percent of employers listed some form of soft skills among the most important criteria [when select- ing employees.]”

Susquehanna University’s Center for Academic Achievement as well as it’s chapter of the Public Relations Student Society of America contributed to the ongoing Let’s Talk Series by sponsoring a Let’s Talk Etiquette Dinner.

The goal of the dinner was to enhance preexisting soft skills in some guests and build a foundation for these skills for other guests.

The presenter for this dinner was Professor Linda Burkley, who is a former etiquette columnist. Burkley is a lecturer in communications here at Susquehanna with a bachelor’s Degree from La Roche College and a Master’s degree from Duquesne University. Burkley spoke to the students on a variety of subjects as a four course dinner was given to the attendees.

The attendees of the dinner, both students and faculty arrived in business casual clothing, and were taught how to make a proper and formal entrance to a dinner.

Burkley explained that it is the job of the attendees to make a proper entrance, from the way that they greet others to name tag etiquette.

Burkley told the crowd that it is important to place one’s name tag on the right side of their clothing, so that when you shake hands, people will naturally be looking at that side of you.

After this, Burkley began to breakdown the table setting. She told the audience where to find everything from the soup spoon to the dessert fork. After this, the dinner began. The attendees were taught how to properly pass the dinner rolls.

Burkley explained, “when people break bread, they are quite literally expected to do so.” We must not cut into the dinner roll with a knife, rather we are to rip it apart with our own fingers.

“It’s not a sandwich,” Burkley said.

Chicken noodle soup, the first course, was delivered to the tables shortly after. Burkley taught the attendees how to eat soup in a proper situation. Dinner guests are expected to draw the spoon from the front to the back and collect vegetables and other pieces as they go along the bowl.

Burkley also made it a point to make sure we never slurp, and that if a guest did not like the soup, they could simply place their spoon on the back of the plate so the server would know to take it away.

After the soup was finished, the salad was served and the discussion moved to wine consumption. Burkley suggested that potential employers use this dinner opportunity to test their potential employees, so she said it would be wise not to partake in wine consumption for this sort of situation.

However, if the occasion does arise that drinking wine would be welcome, Burkley said that professionals would often be offered a red or a white. If a guest is not sure which wine they would like, Burkley recommends asking the waiter to look at the bottle. Oftentimes, they are already holding it and if you ask to see it, they’ll show you, according to Burkley.

The main course was chick- en parmesan served over spaghetti with marinara sauce. There was a vegetarian option of sautéed vegetables served over the spaghetti.

Burkley explained that she chose this dish to challenge the guests, as it is a difficult food to eat with dignity. “The trick”, according to Burkley, “ is to try to get two noodles on your fork at one time and then twirl it. If a spoon is served on the spaghetti plate, you may use it to twirl.”

If not, it is customary to only use the fork. In addition, to maintain proper etiquette, one must pick up the chicken and the pasta together in one fall swoop. It is not permissible to have spaghetti on the fork and lift it to pick up the chicken from the plate.

When the chicken parmesan was completed, the guests were served chocolate cake for dessert. Burkley returned to discussion about table setting so that the guests would be able to locate their desert fork.

As the cake was being eaten, she opened the floor to questions, comments and concerns. After the question and answer session, Public Relations Student Society of America Executive Board Member Melissa Hulslander was impressed with the presentation.

Hulslander said, “I was surprised to hear about the napkin etiquette, but I am glad it was discussed so that in a real world setting I will know what I’m doing.” Hulslander was referring to a short demonstration Burkley offered the dinner guests.

She explained that if a napkin is in your lap and somebody comes to greet you, you are to stand up and leave the napkin on the back of the chair.

The Center for Academic Achievement offers Let’s Talk dinners throughout the semester, and the academic year and have events on their Facebook.

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