by Terence Baker | September 01, 2005

IlllustrationHilka Klinkenberg, the founder and director of New York City-based Etiquette International (, advises individuals and companies on social graces. Her tips for good behavior at business functions:

Dress appropriately. If jackets and ties are required, wear them. If you’re not sure, wear them anyway.

Don’t with your mouth full or answer your cell phone during a meal. Both are astonishingly common offenses. Also, don’t be the first to reach for the bread; wait patiently for the host’s cue or for the first course to arrive.

Chat well. Avoid discussing touchy subjects such as religion, or boring topics like the weather.

Take cards. When someone hands you a business card, take a moment to read it. And don’t write on it. “That suggests you will not otherwise remember who they are,” explains Klinkenberg.

Follow up. Always write a thank-you note to your host. E-mail is fine, but a handwritten letter is far better.