By Lindsey Kin
Janie M van der Spuy, who heads up FIVESTAR PR, a boutique PR agency in Cape Town specialising in the luxury travel and hospitality industries, says that she has one simple request on her ‘wish list’ for media events. “I would like to appeal to journalists to acknowledge invitations when they receive them and if they know they won’t be available that day, to please decline immediately.” She adds: “We don’t want to hassle you and waste your time with follow-up emails, phone calls and leaving messages – we know you are busy – but would so appreciate the courtesy of a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’ by the RSVP date!” Emma Dunk of emBETWEEN COMMUNICATIONS concurs, “Have the decency to RSVP.” And if you are unable to attend, says Ronelle Bester, owner of Ribbon Communications, “Please let us know!”
Event propriety for Dunk is to be on time for events. This is especially important if you are a speaker. Adds Bester, “Speakers need to engage with the audience, keep them entertained and leave a lasting impression. Added to this, speakers should encourage participation from the audience and give thorough answers. At the same time, guests should listen attentively and ask relevant questions.” For the audience, Dunk asserts: “Switch your cellphones off or at least on silent and if you really need to answer a call during event proceedings, show some respect and quietly and quickly leave the room before answering the call.” And for both parties? Bester recommends using the opportunity to network and build relationships.
Kimberley Nanson, account director at Sapphire Street in Port Elizabeth, divulges that it is not speed dating or a race to network with as many people as possible. “Take time to speak with people, a handful of quality relationships is worth more than many acquaintances.” She feels that at the event, it is important to try and avoid your cliques and network outside of your circles. “If your network only involves people who agree with and already know you, you’re living in a boring little box. Get out there, you'll be glad you did.” If an organisation is sponsoring the event and has a speaking opportunity, Nanson says it is important to ensure the presentation isn’t an ‘in and out’ sales pitch. “People are attending to network and learn something, so don't overdo the sales pitch but talk about learnings, research and successfully using social media in a recent crisis. Speakers must be engaging, so pick and brief with care.”
Marcus Brewster, chairman of Marcus Brewster, shares two important event etiquette rules. The first is for the media. “If you are a media guest, our expectation is that you will publish or broadcast something about the offering we are promoting. If you are unable to provide ink, I believe it is incumbent on a journo to let us know upfront.” Brewster feels it is scandalous to see how many five-star invitations a journalist may accept and then provide no coverage until they are politely pushed to do so. The second tip is for those celebrities we love to hate. “As part of their job description, a celebrity should arrive looking flawlessly photographable and be prepared to marshal a positive sound-byte for the passing microphone.”
Nanson reminds us that in business, first impressions always count, so dress appropriately and “whether it's a sit-down dinner or buffet, your table manners can stand out more than your skills – ask yourself, should I have that third glass of wine?” Dunk adds to this, “Know your limit. There is nothing worse than an intoxicated guest who gets progressively louder and louder during the event proceedings!”
And once you’ve networked, taken your media photos and handed out your last business card, Nanson concludes: “Always thank the host prior to leaving.”
If you’re in the PR or event organising game, share your event etiquette rules with us on our blog.
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