Mar 012006
Authors: Meg Burd

Debra Fine's Top 10 Icebreakers:

1. "What is your connection to the host/hostess or event?"

2. "What do you enjoy the most about this time/season of the year?"

3. "Describe your typical day…"

4. "Bring me up to date about your life/work/family since the last time we saw each other…"

5. "Tell me about your plans for the rest of the summer…"

6. "What brought you to this part of the country?" "What did you love about growing up here?"

7. "What have you heard about _______ (examples: this movie, the CSU Rams recruiting class, the program)?"

8. "Tell me about your childhood…"

9. "How do you all know each other?" "How did you two meet?"

10. "Tell me about your family" or "Tell me about your work…"

As May gets closer, many students find themselves nearing the time to start looking for employment – be it a summer job or even, for graduates, a career.

With students preparing to head off into the "real world," Student Leadership and Civic Engagement (SLCE) is teaming up with the Student Alumni Connection, the CSU Alumni Association, the Career Center and other organizations across campus to put on "Recipes for Success: Essential Etiquette Ingredients," which takes place today at 5 p.m.

The session is a professional etiquette program designed to help students get answers about skills that can help them succeed in business and social life.

Stepping out of college can be an intimidating process, said Alexis Kanda-Olmstead, assistant director for leadership education at the SLCE, and lacking understanding of how to comport oneself in a business environment can make the transition even scarier.

"It's like being a freshman all over again," she said.

While after four years, students might be successful at navigating college, steering through the employment world can be something different.

For Kanda-Olmstead, mastering "those intangible skills that are important to success" is an important topic for students, and with an unexpected turnout of more than two hundred people attending "Recipes for Success," it appears those intangible skills are something everyone is searching for.

While some people are blessed with a "gift of gab" and could breeze through an anxious situation such as an interview with no worries, many more stumble when the big moment comes. However, speaker and author Debra Fine said everyone can learn conversation techniques to help them not only get through these times, but also inspire good feelings on the part of the interviewer or boss.

"The goal for me is to teach students conversation skills to help them in their search for work," said Fine, author of the book, "The Fine Art of Small Talk," and a nationally recognized speaker on the topic of conversation.

Fine will speak at the program about starting conversations, ending conversations gracefully and developing personal rapport, among other concepts. She said many people, not only students, often feel intimidated by the idea of engaging in conversation with a boss or even a stranger at a party.

"I used to be an engineer," she said. "Outside of talking about work, I didn't know how to do it. Some of us are born with it, some of us aren't."

However, she notes even for those not born with it, such skills can be learned.

She suggests one major point in conducting conversation is to be ready with conversation starters and questions to alleviate awkward silences.

"Most people never consider assuming the burden of comfort in other people's situation," she says.

This rapport, Fine said, is an essential ingredient for success.

"People hire people for the same reason we vote for people," Fine said, "because they need to solve a problem, such as fill a vacancy. But also they vote for or hire someone because of good feelings," developed through rapport.

Besides Fine's discussion on conversation skills, the program will offer a variety of presentations to help students succeed, including a dinner with examples of dining etiquette, followed by a fashion show of business attire ranging from business casual to black tie formal.

"So far we've got a total of fourteen employer hosts and fourteen alumni hosts," said Tanida Ruampant , director of Alumni and Student Programs, the office that initiated the etiquette program last year. Using their skills, Ruampant hopes students can make connections with not only the employers, but also alumni mentors, something sure to help students in the future.

Kanda-Olmstead hopes these skills will be useful in helping students succeed and grow beyond the college experience, and make CSU students the leaders of tomorrow.

"We look at professional development as leadership development," she said of the SLCE support of the program. "Those intangible skills of leadership – we develop those as well. We recognize the holistic nature of educating students in leadership."

For more information, please see the Student Leadership and Civic Engagement Web site at

Information on Debra Fine can be found at


 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.