Something I didn’t anticipate when I was considering becoming one is that I have to walk my talk all the time. In fact, it feels like I can’t mess up. I’m the etiquette consultant, I should know what to do and do it right every time. Yikes, the pressure!
In addition, people are often nervous when they find out what I do. I see it so often. As soon as I say I’m a business etiquette consultant, people stiffen up. They may not say it, but I can tell they are thinking “oh great, she’s going to judge my manners.”
Well, recently I messed up big time. Big time for me. I was invited to present with my friend Lynn Baldwin-Rhoades, founder of Power Chicks International, on networking. I spent the afternoon before and the morning of the presentation preparing. I finessed my slides, printed out my handouts, gathered my props, my projector and laptop. I was ready to go by 11am the morning of the presentation, which was taking place at 6:30 that night.
5pm came and I stopped working, got dressed and ate some dinner. Suddenly, the clock said 6:10 and I hadn’t left yet. I had planned on getting there at 6:15! I can be Mario Andretti in the car if I have to be. I pride myself on my New York driving skills, but alas, the traffic across town would not accommodate even Arden Clisedretti. Then, I couldn’t find parking. Argh! I finally walked into the lovely Alinga Bodywork studio, where the event was being held, at 6:32.
The room was full with the attendees, waiting for my arrival. I still had to set-up the laptop and the projector. Breathe Arden, breathe. As I was setting up, Lynn had the attendees go around and introduce themselves and say a word that described themselves. When everyone was finished introducing themselves, my slides were showing on the screen, and I said my word was “outwardly calm, inwardly not so.” I got a few laughs from that.
I started my presentation and, as I usually do, went over housekeeping – timing, participate, turn your cell phones off, etc. Thinking the worst was behind me and all I had to do was entertain and inform everyone with my presentation, I relaxed. I was about 15 minutes into my presentation; people were enjoying it and having fun, when all of a sudden my cell phone rang. What?!! Everyone looked at me. I had just made a point of telling them to turn their cell phones off, and did I mention I’M AN ETIQUETTE CONSULTANT?! OH MY GOD!!!!!
The chances of me having my cell phone ring during a presentation are about a million to one. That’s because I usually have my ringer off throughout the day because I almost always forget to turn it on. My friends often complain that they can’t reach me because I can’t hear my phone ring. I’m also very careful to check my phone before I get out of my car for a meeting, presentation or anything where I shouldn’t have my phone ring. Why did the one chance in a million have to happen this night? Why?!!
Thankfully the group laughed, probably because it was so ironic for it to happen. And thankfully, I redeemed myself through delivering a great presentation.
So, what’s the moral of the story? Admittedly, I’m not perfect. And even though I’m an etiquette consultant, I never will be perfect. Perfect doesn’t exist. A lesson I’m always learning because I tend to be a harsh judge of myself. And most importantly, it’s how we make others feel when they mess up that matters. I didn’t feel judged by those wonderful women for being late and having my phone ring. They were gracious and forgiving.
So remember this. If an etiquette consultant can mess up, it’s OK that you and others do too!