How not to pop a champagne cork and other tips from Beaumont Etiquette founder Myka Meier.
Vera Batichev and Myka Meier attend Historic Royal Palaces Patrons Secret Garden Party at Merchant's House Museum on May 24, 2016 in New York City.
Does the phrase “etiquette class,” conjure up stodgy images of lace gloves and curtsies for you? Myka Meier is here to change all of that. As the founder of Beaumont Etiquette, one of the premier etiquette schools in North America, Meier’s goal is to bring the lessons and import of proper conduct into the 21st century. And, with this month’s launch of The Plaza Hotel Finishing Program with Beaumont Etiquette, she’s set to reach a larger audience than ever. We sat down with her at the famous Palm Court at The Plaza to chat about everything from manners in the digital age to proper champagne sipping.
How did you get into the business of etiquette? MYKA MEIER: I was living in London and working with clients that were Americans launching [businesses] abroad for the first time. One client called me and said, “Listen, we’re meeting with another business, I have no idea what the etiquette would be. It’s pretty crazy that I have to fly to Europe for an international education [in etiquette].” There are lots of American etiquette companies that are fantastic, but it was really hard for this client to find international [etiquette lessons].
I started Beaumont Etiquette in London, but when I brought it to New York, the reason why it was so different was because it’s international. We teach British etiquette, we teach Continental—which is all of Europe—and then we teach American as well. So, it’s a much more international approach. But it was originally just from the idea that my client from San Francisco had to fly to London for the international etiquette.
And now you’re working with The Plaza. MM: There are two prongs to the Plaza program:
The first is to make etiquette really approachable. Maybe you don’t know a lot about it, you’re interested in it, but you’re not going to invest “x” amount into your etiquette education just yet. So, we created these classes called The Plaza Proper courses. We’ll have a two-hour etiquette class, which includes a little networking event after, plus drinks and hors d’oeuvres. It’s lots of little categories like business etiquette, dating etiquette, wedding etiquette, all the different topics.
Then you have the more intensive etiquette classes, which are actually a finishing weekend. This is targeting maybe somebody in Alabama, it could be somebody from Russia. You can fly in and actually stay at The Plaza. We have incredible brand partners, like Dom Perignon for how to drink champagne correctly. And essentially it’s everything—it’s all the basics: how to read body language, how to present yourself, all the posture and deportment kind of lessons, and then the glamour of the added bonuses. So it’s practical, yet a little bit of something special.
You mentioned drinking champagne correctly. Tell us more about that. MM: The louder the cork pop, the worse etiquette it actually is. The louder the noise you make, the more distraction you cause, and the worse etiquette it is. So, with champagne, once you have the crate off, you keep your finger over the top of the cork and you twist at a 45-degree angle, the champagne bottle, not the cork. And twist until it makes a tiny little “pfft” and then you pour.
What are your three tips for New Yorkers on proper etiquette? MM: Conversation is probably a big one for New Yorkers. I think when we’re out networking, either for business or social, one of the first questions I personally hear is, “So, what do you do?” And that’s actually one of the topics we teach not to ask on a first meeting, because it seems opportunistic.
Dining etiquette is a massive one. If you have bad dining etiquette, whether it’s a date or you’re an associate at a law firm, whatever it might be, if you have bad dining etiquette, it’s a massive distraction. And that’s what people take away from your business meeting, not whatever intelligent proposal you just pitched.
I think email etiquette is huge. Using emojis to express yourself—great!—but it’s not very professional. There are so many different rules of digital that are not in many traditional etiquette books.