It’s your Mitzvah kid’s big day and everyone important to your family is going to be together… in the same room…. wanting to talk to the guest of honor. How can you help your child navigate the tricky choreography of being center of attention at a major life cycle event? Paula Sobb, President and Founder of Peachtree Etiquette, provides a crash course on Mitzvah manners for your Bar or Bat Mitzvah kid:
1. Eye ‘Em Up. Making direct eye contact with each guest is one of the most important elements of an introduction or greeting. Looking someone in the eye says to them that you value their presence, and that you’re happy to see them. Role play introductions and greetings with solid eye contact until it feels natural.
2. Play Match Game. Does verbal and non-verbal communication match? Make sure when you say, “It’s nice to meet you,” your facial expression isn’t saying “I’d rather be talking to anyone else but you.” Come up with phrases you’d like to use when greeting guests, as long as they’re sincere when you say them. Also, match the physical greeting offered by guests. In other words, go along with it if someone extends a hand to shake yours, or if they pull you in for a hug.
3. Shake It. Shaking it on the dance floor is important, but so is the firm grasp required to make a handshake warm instead of wimpy. You can’t “turn on” the charm if it isn’t habit. Practice introductions, handshakes, welcoming phrases (It’s so nice to see you. Thank you for coming.) and eye contact. By the big day, it’ll be second nature.
4. Mix and Mingle. The guest of honor shouldn’t spend too much time with one guest, even if they are BFFs. Spend a brief time with guests, and then move on. When a conversation winds down or you’re ready to speak with someone else, transition out (NOT with a bathroom or beverage excuse) by saying something like, “It was wonderful talking with you. Enjoy the party, and I’ll see you a bit later. “
5. Anticipate Introductions. It’s likely that one or two guests will know nobody else there. Think of other guests solo attendees would enjoy meeting based on similar interests, ages, etc. When introducing them, start by speaking to the eldest person first: “Mrs. Schwartz, this is my best friend from camp, Katie.” If the two people you’re introducing are peers, start by speaking to the female first and introduce the other person to her. If they’re the same gender, it doesn’t matter whom you address first. Make sure your introduction leads in to conversation: “Cousin Jane, this is my friend George, who enjoys horseback riding like you do.”
6. Thank Guests in Two. Electronic communication is no substitute for a handwritten thank you note. And remember, you don’t have forever to write them. Order stationery before the big weekend so you can write notes rapidly post-event and mail them within two weeks.