By Alex McCray
Atlanta’s very own queen of etiquette puts a modern spin on author Emily Post’s rule book and shares why those traditions are still relevant today.
Erika Preval is proof that good manners never go out of style. Just ask the servers whose continuous compliments of her 16- and 18-year-old daughters’ manners led her to launch Charm Etiquette, a modern-day finishing school for adults and children in 2012. Today, she partners with restaurants and businesses to make the art of etiquette approachable. For Preval, it’s about more than soothing the internal qualm of using the wrong fork. Her focus is to help everyone who sits at one of her tables depart with the skills to present the best version of themselves.
How does Charm Etiquette’s “Social Studies: Finishing School for Adults” help women and men be their best selves?
Every event is built around social scenarios where I’ve witnessed people being uncomfortable or confused. Your “best self” is the one that is fully confident and so poised that you’re not distracted by forks or dress codes and are fully engaged with the people in your company. That might look one way if you’re with friends and another when entertaining a client. Whether in the boardroom or at a barbecue, Social Studies guests are prepared to experience it all with ease.
Why is it important to keep classic traditions for social graces alive? When a MARTA train arrives and you step in front of the doors to enter, how will people exit? Etiquette is sometimes perceived as being elitist, but it’s really about being considerate and creating an environment or flow for things we do daily.
What are three common etiquette mistakes you see people make?
1. Cellphones, while making us closer than ever, can also be divisive. In the company of others, give your attention to whomever your feet are facing and get their OK before taking a photo of your food, etc.
2. Roundtable events can be confusing, but remember BMW (bread, meal, water) to know the order of your place setting; bread plate on the left, meal in the center, and water on your right.
3. Name tags should be worn high on the right shoulder. This makes them easier to view when networking.
You’re involved with Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta, The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc., and serve as a Women of Cole Cabinet member with United Way of Greater Atlanta. Why are these organizations important to you?
Muhammad Ali once said, “Service is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.” It cost $25 to participate in Girl Scouts of Greater Atlanta. Realizing that it takes more than that to maintain and strengthen the organization that supports the leadership skills of over 41,000 girls compels me to continue serving on the Board of Directors’ Fund Development Committee.
The Junior League of Atlanta, Inc. does such important work in Atlanta. I’ll serve two presidential appointments next year to help ensure members have a great experience. United Way of Greater Atlanta is ready to tackle any issue with its own initiatives and community partners.
Who helps you be your “best self?”
My family. Being a role model for my girls and creating a strong legacy is a huge driver for me. My husband is always there to push me to the next level and support me when I need to step back and pour into myself. They keep me balanced and I’m ever so grateful for them.