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The dos and don'ts: Mandy Smith is a corporate training consultant who helps people brush up on their business etiquette. Lee Hoagland / The National
The dos and don'ts: Mandy Smith is a corporate training consultant who helps people brush up on their business etiquette. Lee Hoagland / The National

Early cut for late starters

The Life: Mandy Smith, a corporate training consultant, gives do's and don'ts to make the most of meetings.

Arriving late, dominating discussions and loudly announcing you have to take a call are all major faux pas in business meetings.

A stern word is sufficient for most transgressions, but people who persistently take up too much airspace can pose a tougher challenge.

So how do you deal with them?

"Lead with a question, like do you think we have the budget for this? Because I'm really worried about how much we're spending," says Mandy Smith, a corporate training consultant who helps people brush up on their business etiquette.

"Not waiting for an answer but then stating your opinion makes people feel that they have been asked a question, rather than interrupted," she says.

The topic is high up on the agenda of the business skills course Ms Smith teaches at the Eton Institute in Dubai.

Students learn they must also watch their behaviour when they are attending events with colleagues outside of work.

Dressing appropriately at all times is important as first impressions are usually formed within 30 seconds.

"Make sure that you're dressed correctly and professionally, and here that means the need to dress slightly more conservatively than you may in some of your home countries," says Ms Smith.

Treat all colleagues equally and do not differentiate between them because of their position.

"People will see that if you treat one person poorly and the boss comes in and you're really nice to them, why you're doing that," she says.

"And you never know when the pesky sales person becomes your biggest client. People change their jobs quite frequently."

The course attracts a diverse mix, from company chief executives and directors to job seekers fresh out of university. "The only common thing they have is English as a second language. I have had occasional people who have English as a first language. That's generally when the companies know of the course and know someone who has had some success on it," says Ms Smith.

"They may have the mother tongue of English, but they might not understand the business etiquette side of things."

Mona Dib, 34, from Lebanon, who works at a distribution company for IT products, signed up to improve her English and business skills. "I find it difficult sometimes to find my words. "But she (Ms Smith) has given us a lot of phrases to use and showed us how to create the subject. I have found it very useful for my daily work."

The course, which can also be delivered to companies and tailored to their requirements, includes a section about the cultural sensitivities of doing business in the UAE.

"You can't point the sole of your foot towards somebody, so you have to make sure your feet are on the ground if you're in a meeting with UAE locals," says Ms Smith.

And people should not offer their hand to the opposite gender.

"I have a lot of locals that come to the course and I just suggest that they put their hands behind their back, because it becomes very awkward."

First meetings in the Emirates are often devoted to getting to know each other. Some of the questions might not be business related because people like to build a relationship first.

"It might not be until the third meeting that they will talk business, but after that they will never go anywhere else because they have built that relationship," she says.

gduncan@thenational.ae

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