My own experience with formal etiquette training has been a positive one. There appears to be a diverse set of opinions about what etiquette is and why it may be important. Etiquette schools and formal training though is a nascent industry. As humans, we are inherently social and fastidious creatures. So it is intuitive that more people seem to appreciate how improving your social engagement skills can be a powerful networking tool. Lynn Coady, the Canadian novelist and journalist, once wrote of etiquette “Let’s not confuse traditional behaviours with good manners. The definition of etiquette is gender neutral – it simply means we strive at all times to ensure a person in our company feels at ease.”. The Cultural Aficionado sat down with the charming Emma Dupont, who runs the Emma Dupont School of Etiquette, to understand her own thoughts and motivations behind her successful project.
Could you explain why you set up The Emma Dupont School of Etiquette?
My working life began in the finance sector, so somewhat different from my current business! After obtaining my finance qualifications I moved to London and worked as a Financial Adviser, remaining in the industry for nineteen years. I enjoyed it immensely and, having joined when 1990’s recession was drawing to an end, I was lucky to enjoy the rolling success until the credit crunch in 2008.
Sadly the company I was working with closed and it was time to re-assess what I really wanted to do and achieve. As much as I had enjoyed my time in finance I had been feeling for some time that I wanted to be involved in an area that inspired and helped people develop.
It had also become clear over the final few years in finance that I was interested in the characteristics of someone that made them not just successful but also trusted, respected and liked. I instinctively knew that success was not just based on education and qualifications, but acquiring a high level of emotional intelligence enabling people to read many different scenarios and adjust their responses.
What drew you to the subject of etiquette, to begin with?
During my time as a Financial Adviser in London, I met people from many nationalities and cultures which led me to take a keen interest in the subject of customs, traditions and etiquette, how the knowledge and practice of it can greatly influence success, along with the challenges facing international people visiting and living in London.
This, along with my fascination with interpersonal skills, inspired me to retrain and start my own etiquette business and it is the best thing I have ever done.
What’s the biggest misconception about etiquette?
Unfortunately for some British people the word ‘etiquette’ is associated with finishing schools, class systems and the television series ‘Ladette to Lady’, which may have provided light entertainment but was very far removed from what etiquette is, which is simply a knowledge of the current social and business rules that govern society.
Knowing these rules gives us confidence that we can walk into every situation relaxed, feeling confident and in turn be able to look out for those around us, rather than be all-consumed with our own insecurities.
What are the most challenging parts of putting an etiquette course in place?
Like most businesses, finding the sweet spot for marketing is vital. In many ways, it is more challenging nowadays as there are just so many options to choose from and finding the right one takes time.
For group courses I always hope that everyone will get on with each other, you just don’t know until the first day! I have been incredibly lucky so far; my clients have been wonderful and many have actually formed long-lasting friendships with those they meet on the course.
Could you tell our readers what they should look for when considering attending an etiquette class?
The first thing I would advise is to read past client’s testimonials, these are very important. The second is to research the company and the tutor that will be coaching you, and ensure that their client’s needs are at the forefront of their business. A good etiquette coach will be personally invested in your growth and success, which is why when clients come to The Emma Dupont School of Etiquette they are all taught by me, so they can be assured of the highest level of coaching.
What do you think the future of etiquette looks like?
I think it is looking very positive. Our responsibility as an industry is to educate everyone about how important these skills are, especially to young adults about to enter the workplace. Competition is high for internships and permanent roles, and it is the interpersonal skills that will set people apart from their peers.
My business has grown exponentially in the last twelve months and it shows no signs of slowing down which I am very happy about!