A Lasting Impression

Jules Martinez-Hirst of Etiquette Consulting Inc offers expert advice on navigating social and business interactions with confidence and grace

Jules Martinez-Hirst speaks at Doheny Mansion for Mount St. Mary’s Spring Etiquette Dinner.

At a recent networking event in Los Angeles, a woman on her way to a job interview approached Jules Martinez-Hirst for advice. Several months later, they bumped into each other at another event. The woman gushed that she had followed Martinez-Hirst’s advice. She had given a handwritten thank-you note to each of the people who interviewed her for a job. The employer was so impressed that he told the woman, “If you’re as dedicated to your work as you are to sending thank-you notes, we want you on our team!”

Ten Tips for better etiquette

by Jules Martinez-Hirst

1. When attending events, always place your name badge on your right side. When shaking hands, the person facing you will naturally follow the hand-arm line up to your name.

2. Know where you’re going, and dress appropriately. Remember that even if cocktails are served at an event, club attire is not appropriate.

3. Hold your beverage in your left hand so that your right hand is dry and available to shake hands.

4. Don’t assume the people around you know each other. Always make introductions.

5. Your online brand should match your offline brand. Make sure that your social media accounts are conservative and appropriate for business contacts.

6. Remember that what you post online stays online forever. When you’re having a bad day, restrict your venting to offline conversations.

7. When conducting business in the international sector, make sure you’re familiar with cultural customs ahead of time. (Kiss, Bow, or Shake Hands by Terri Morrison is a great guide for navigating greetings, exchanging business cards, and other social interactions.)

8. Business etiquette applies to all business-related functions—even after 5 p.m.

9. You have less than 30 seconds to make a first impression, so make it a good one.

10. Firm handshakes (not too hard, not too soft) demonstrate confidence.

A colorful career path led Jules Martinez-Hirst to her current passion for etiquette. She’s worked as a cosmetics counter manager, a real estate agent, a paralegal, and an aesthetician. The common thread: Martinez-Hirst has always loved helping people be more comfortable and confident. Today she’s the owner of Etiquette Consulting, Inc., coauthor of The Power of Civility, and an expert in helping others empower and improve themselves.

As a single mom, Martinez-Hirst wanted to make sure she covered all the bases as she prepared her two daughters for college. She hired an etiquette instructor and was unimpressed with the results. After doing her research, Martinez-Hirst became an etiquette coach, providing business and social etiquette training for corporations, colleges, universities, and individuals interested in improv­ing their business and social etiquette skills. She creates customized workshops, lectures, and webinars for her clients.

Martinez-Hirst’s training focuses on specialized education for navigating social skills and first impressions. “Seventy-five to eighty percent of people assume that etiquette is about putting a napkin on your lap, saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you,’ and knowing how to use a knife and fork,” Martinez-Hirst explains. “But today, technology has created etiquette dilemmas that baffle even seasoned executives. Cultural awareness, proper dining, and savvy social skills will have a direct impact on your profitability.”

When Martinez-Hirst started Etiquette Consulting, Inc., she was working with kids and teens among other clients. At an etiquette seminar in an inner-city high school, she helped a student feel more comfortable at the dining table. The student had only used plastic disposable forks at home and had never used a metal knife. “It broke my heart and made me want to reach out to others in higher positions to continue to serve and empower others in need.” Four years later, she’s focused on her passion for business etiquette and working with university students.

Martinez-Hirst is a proactive and friendly leader, always willing to help. She values constructive advice, but notes that she always asks for permission before she shares criticism. Many of her clients are hoping to build confidence as they approach unfamiliar social situations. Martinez-Hirst leads them through role-playing exercises to get comfortable. “We practice a situation from all different angles,” she explains, “and then that information comes back at the time of the event.”

Martinez-Hirst also serves on the board of directors for the National Latina Businesswoman’s Association, where she hosts the membership committee and runs etiquette workshops for their signature program, Business Management Academy.

In late 2013, Martinez-Hirst started taking a leadership course at the Latina Global Executive Leadership Academy. The transformational course has helped her to embrace her own story and to lead with confidence and authenticity. “Leaving an abusive relationship, I was a single mom with two kids and no car, scared and unsure of what to do with my life. Today I run my own business, and I’m proud of who I am. I hope my story helps other women feel more empowered.”

As she plans for the future, Martinez-Hirst hopes to spread the importance of etiquette to new locations and to expand her work with new clients. She’s prepared to discuss the value of etiquette with every new person she meets. “Always make a good first impression,” she offers. “Sometimes that’s all you get.”