Shannon Smith

By Melanie Hennessey

Shannon Smith wrote the book on minding one’s manners — literally.

The etiquette expert is the face behind Power Manners: How to Use Your Personal Skills for Business and Social Success and also the founder of Premiere Image International, a contemporary finishing school for adults.

For the past two decades, the Oakville resident has been helping individuals put their best foot forward, guiding them on topics such as charismatic leadership, personal branding, appropriate attire and grooming, communication skills, social manners and business etiquette.

With clients like Telus, Royal Bank, IBM and Drake International, to name a few, it’s fair to say that the demand for manners is alive and well, even at a time when it may seem the opposite is true.

The self-described serial entrepreneur brings a wide variety of experience to the table with her background in nursing, fashion retail and cosmetics. Smith studied at the International Protocol and Etiquette Program in Washington, DC and travels extensively in Europe to maintain her expertise in international codes
of behaviour.

The manners guru knows that you only get one chance to make a great first impression, with others making snap decisions on your character, expertise and ability in 10 seconds.

As holiday parties are just around the corner, we asked Smith to share her tips on how to put your best forward this season
and beyond.

What’s the number one way that men and women can present themselves professionally in a corporate environment?

Ensuring that others will judge you more favourably right from the start begins with analyzing your “visual package.” Has your hair style changed in the last five years? Is your personal “style” and wardrobe current or out of date? Your number one accessory is your grooming. You don’t have to be a walking advertisement for GQ or Vogue, but your wardrobe should reflect a professional image; always dress the part and you will become the part. A polished presence allows others to want to know if you’ve got the right stuff — what’s on the inside. It’s the whole package that helps sell the product: you are the brand.

Holiday parties are on the horizon for many at this time of the year. What are your top etiquette tips for this type of social setting?

Even if you don’t get a written party invitation, courtesy demands that you respond. The best advice – don’t procrastinate. It’s bad form to keep your hosts waiting and downright rude to see if something “more interesting” comes up. Never arrive late. Be a gracious guest, greet your host and move on. It’s impolite to monopolize him when he will be greeting other guests. As a guest, you have responsibilities too. Add to the party by being witty, charming and interesting; spread the good cheer around. Exit at the appropriate time — find your host, thank him and depart. You will be a hit and be remembered if you send a handwritten thank you note.

What’s the difference between manners and etiquette?

Manners are simply the polite behaviour that reflects an attitude of consideration, kindness and respect for others. Simple words such as please, thank you and excuse me transcend social status, race and gender. Etiquette provides the form and the rules. As an example, knowing the rules of setting the table; who sits where, which fork to use when, which is your bread and butter plate, where to put the knife and fork at the end of the meal.

Do you think that maintaining proper etiquette and manners is a lost art in today’s society?

Unfortunately, in this hyped and frenzied world of impersonal communication, people forget the value of professional ethics, common courtesies and decent manners. Knowing how to behave has never been more important to success. Good manners are an essential element in any personal portfolio and a clear differentiator in business and social encounters, taking everyone who adopts them on a perception-changing journey from unnoticed to unforgettable. Like it or not, your “personal brand” is constantly on show, as family, friends, colleagues, clients and employers watch and keep score.

Your slogan says “transforming individuals from unnoticed to unforgettable.” How do you go about doing this?

Assisting a client develop a personal brand takes time and commitment on both sides. This coaching isn’t “instant pudding.”  I follow a compressive client assessment process, beginning with a detailed analysis that includes identifying goals, career /life vision, review of industry standards, personal style, wardrobe, presentation, dining and manners.