Giving and Receiving Gifts Year-Round

by Syndi Seid

Anthropologist Terry Y. LeVine said it best: “The practice of giving and receiving gifts is so universal it is part of what it means to be human. In virtually every culture, gifts and the events at which they are exchanged are a crucial part of the essential process of creating and maintaining social relationships.”

December is the biggest gift giving month of the year. Yet there are endless reasons to give gifts throughout the year: personal gifts for birthdays, weddings, graduations and holidays, as well as business gifts to say thank you for a job well done, congratulations on a promotion, or I’m sorry for not performing as expected.

The purpose of giving gifts is to bring joy to both the giver and receiver, promote goodwill, and make for a closer relationship. However, if gift giving goes amiss, there is a risk of making the receiver uncomfortable and creating an unpleasant situation for both sides. To avoid any ill-effects from your gift giving practices, keep in mind these simple tips.


  1. Be sure of the true purpose of the gift. Beyond saying the gift is for a particular occasion, think through how well this gift will express your feelings for this person. To figure this out, ask yourself: how much do I really are about this person? How much time, energy and money am I willing to spend to select just the right gift for them? Let the answers guide you throughout this process.
  2. Do your homework about the receiver. Be observant about his or her favorite items, things he or she might need, or things that would be a meaningful expression of your relationship. Try to remember comments about favorite colors, foods or beverages. As needed, ask someone else who knows the person, explaining that the purpose of your inquiry is to help learn something that will help you select a special gift. I think most people are willing to help with ideas.
  3. Be sensitive to personal and cultural differences. With such a diverse population in our society, it is important to learn something about a person’s ethnic, religious and cultural practices along with their personal likes and dislikes before you present a gift. Take time to learn what’s appropriate and what’s not in different communities to gain insights on what a person would or would not appreciate as a gift. For example, giving a bottle of wine to someone who does not drink alcohol could make the receiver less than overjoyed with your gift.
  4. Know when corporate logos are appropriate. Sometimes a gift with a company logo cheapens its appearance. The best gifts are those without any logos or promotion on it, especially when given as special thank-you gift. Logo gifts are fine as small remembrances for meetings held; not generally as the sincerest form of a thank you gift.
  5. Use simple and elegant wrapping. Japanese-influenced, understated wrapping is best in my mind. Avoid using brightly colored, bold, heavily patterned paper and a lot of brightly colored, fancy bows and ribbons on the package. Instead, use solid stately colors and quality paper with simple ribbon.
  6. Present your gift with style. The best way is having it gift beautifully wrapped and given in person. In business situations, when sending the gift by messenger or mail, include your business card with the gift, along with a handwritten note on personal note card or stationary.


  1. Show your appreciation when receiving a gift in person. Always put a smile on your face as a gift is being presented and say thank you along with a brief expression of appreciation.
  2. Let the giver know as soon as possible when a gift has arrived. Make every effort to let the sender know you received a gift sent by mail or messenger (email, fax or telephone call is fine). Then follow it up by sending the proper thank-you note as soon as possible.
  3. Be sensitive to opening a gift in front of others. Americans typically open gifts as soon as it is received, even in front of an audience and other groups of people. Know that in many cultures it is not customary or appropriate to open gifts in front of guests. They are kept to be opened alone.
  4. Know the bottom line. Always hand write a thank you note for every gift you receive, no matter what…period. Sending a thank you note is the right thing to do.

Happy Practicing!

Syndi Seid is a regular contributing writer, professional speaker/trainer and founder of a San Francisco-based business that offers free monthly etiquette articles.

Which Name Tag Fastener is Right for You?

You’ve chosen what name tag you want, designed your logo and made a list of the names you need printed on them. There’s still one crucial part of the name tag equation left: choosing a fastener. It’s not a decision that should be taken lightly, as different occasions and environments call for certain fasteners. Work attire and uniforms should be taken into consideration as well.

The fastener you choose will directly impact the appearance of the name tag, so choose carefully!

Magnet Fastener
Pros: Of all our fasteners, magnetic is the most popular. A strong magnetic current secures the name tag in place, but without snagging or pinning holes in the material.
Cons: If the name tag is hit or caught on something, it could be displaced and you might lose one side of the magnetic fastener.

Pin Fastener
Pros: Tried, tested and true, the pin fastener is simple and effective. Just pin it to your pocket or shirt, and your name tag will stay put. It won’t be dislodged unless the pin is accidentally unhooked, which is unlikely.
Cons: It might poke holes in your shirt or pocket. This isn’t a problem if your uniform or attire is made of heavy duty material, but if you’re wearing something more delicate, the pin might snag it.

Swivel Bulldog Clip
Pros: This fastener easily clips onto pockets and lanyards, securing your name tag without having to pin it through a shirt or fixate the magnets to stay put.
Cons: If you’re not wearing a lanyard, a jacket or pants with pockets then you’re out of luck. You want to avoid placing the name tag in an awkward place.

Double Clutch Fastener
Pros: Two pins are better than one. Double clutch pins stabilize the name tag, preventing it from getting bent or hanging on the shirt too much. With even support on both sides, the name tag won’t flop or droop.
Cons: Like the regular pin clip fastener, double clutch fasteners can snag or create holes in the material it’s pinned on.

9 Tips for Email Etiquette

By, Syndi Seid

1. Begin each message with a cordial greeting. A person would never dream of writing a letter or sending a fax without some form of a greeting or header. Why should email be any different. Always begin with something such as, “Dear …;” “Hello,” or at the very least the person’s name, followed by a colon, not a comma (colons are for business/professional correspondence and commas are for social/casual correspondence).

2. End each message with a signature and contact information. Always sign your first and last name at the end of each message. Configure an auto signature into your system which will contain all important contact information (including your name, address, telephone and fax numbers, and a repeat of your email address). Think of this as being no different than sending a letter using a sheet of letterhead.

3. Always re-read messages before sending them. Do not transmit messages the moment you write them. Instead, during any one email session, draft all messages and replies; place them in the out box; then re-read each message, use spell check before transmitting the entire group of messages.

4. Always make reference to the subject matter about which you are responding. With the multitudes of email messages we get daily, nothing is worse than to receive a cryptic reply, with no opening greeting, no name at the end, no previous message attached, just an, “O.K.,” “I agree,” “Do it!” attached.

5. Use the copy and paste feature to forward messages rather than as an attachment to the message. Except when messages are within the same known company or group, not everyone on email has the same platform applications and programs, allowing each person to easily open and read files. By taking the few seconds to first copy and paste the message, it will save valuable time and effort in having to retransmit what might have been important information again at a later time.

6. Review the trail of previous messages when using the “Reply To” feature to compose new messages. A) Make sure they are still relevant to the current subject listed; B) all unrelated text should be deleted before sending a new message on a new subject; C) always type a new subject line; D) keep only an average of two previous sets of messages attached, as necessary.

7. When sending group messages, especially to recipients who all do not even know each other, DO NOT send batch messages using the “To” option. Instead, use the “Bcc:” (blind copy option) to send each person the message individually. This way it will avoid: A) everyone seeing your long list of recipients; B) everyone having full access to your valuable and private mailing list – for free; C) unknown and undesired people having access to private information of individuals who may not want it broadcast. Last, do not send replies to the entire group unless specifically instructed. This item is perhaps my biggest pet peeve with email.

8. Know your e-pals. Not all systems have the same ability to read the same fonts, indents, bold lettering, centering, italics and the like … results being: A) the recipient might not receive the message at all; B) it may be received without any formatting in one long string of text; C) it may even show a series of extra and unwanted codes and lines. PCs and Macs still don’t communicate well; and some servers, such as Juno, have been strict for email messages, with no graphics or attachments possible.

9. Most importantly, especially when communicating with people in and from other cultures and countries, make sure you do not use any abbreviations, slang and jargon. Always use proper grammar and courteous language in whole, complete sentences. Be sensitive to how the tone of your message may sound and be received by the other person…by being mindful of the particular words you choose to use and write.

BOTTOM LINE: Email is a terrific, quick and easy way to communicate. Nevertheless, we must never forget to use the same care and courtesy in our writings as we would when speaking to someone in person.

Happy Practicing!

Syndi Seid is the world’s leading etiquette trainer, celebrity speaker, and founder of San Francisco-based Advanced Etiquette.

8 Tips on Professional Company and Organization Image

Maintaining a professional image with name tags and badges.

When you hear the term “professional image” do you think about how an individual looks and behaves? What about the professional image of a company or organization? Does your company or organization have a good professional image?

Here are eight tips to keep your company’s professional image at its highest level.

By Syndi Seid

1. Maintain regular and professional office hours

Most for-profit businesses maintain set business hours, typically Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Yet when it comes to non-profit organizations, especially when staff and volunteers are lacking, office hours can be erratic. Establish regular hours so your clients, customers, members and most importantly donors will know the best times to reach you, even if you are open only two or three days a week or have limited hours. State them clearly on your voice mail greeting and on your web site.

2. Return all messages received within 24 to 48 hours

Designate one person to monitor emails and voice mails and to return each message within 24 to 48 hours. This way the person will know you care about being responsive in a consistent manner. When an individual is away or the office is closed, attach an auto-reply to your email and change your voice mail greeting to alert callers about when you will be back for return calls. Never leave callers hanging as to when they may ever hear from you.

3. Use well designed letterhead and other printed and online messaging, and write a note or letter correctly

Care enough about your organization’s image when it comes to the stationery and online presence you create. Even more than your personal appearance, websites and printed materials are seen and read over and over again.

  • A web site today is a must. You might as well forget opening up shop if you don’t have one. It’s best always to use a professional web designer, but at minimum use an existing design template. A do-it-yourself website is immediately recognizable as such and presents an amateurish and unprofessional image.
  • Do not send letters that are improperly folded and appear crooked. It implies sloppiness.
  • When a letter is only a few sentences long, do not have it appear at the top of the sheet. Instead, lower the content to be centered on the page.
  • Use time honored letter writing skills when addressing a letter or email. Improper punctuation, will show your level of education and professionalism. Knowing how to send letters and emails using a few basic skills will go a long way in presenting a great professional image.

4. Use documented processes (rather than reinventing the wheel)

One of the worst things I see often is how an organization keeps doing the same thing over and over again as though it was a new idea, mainly because the organization didn’t keep notes on past work. Maintain a dedicated journal of meeting minutes and events, describing what went well, what needed improving and new ideas to consider in the future. Especially for special events, keep historical copies of all items used for each event. Then, as staff and volunteers are replaced, or you hire an event planner, these documents will become the most helpful training tool to help learn what to incorporate as best practices and what mistakes not to repeat.

5. Organize and rehearse for meetings and special events

It’s important to respect everyone’s time, no matter if they’re staff, vendors, clients, volunteers or board members for non-profit organizations. One of the most irritating situations (which once caused me to resign from a non-profit board) is the inability of the chair and meeting facilitator to properly plan and run a meeting. At minimum, always have an agenda and distribute it ahead of time so everyone will know what will be discussed and how best they might contribute to the discussions. During the meeting, facilitators must show authority in keeping discussions on point and on time. Distribute the minutes of the meeting as soon as possible to help keep those people who were unable to attend in the loop, and to know what may be expected of them before the next meeting.

When it comes to special events that showcase your company, organization and business, make every effort to make a lasting impression. Plan and script out every detail from the time guests enter the event to the time they leave. Hold at least one rehearsal and walk-through with the event staff to address all situations that might arise. Put yourself in the guest’s position by thinking through how you would like to be treated from start to finish. One event may make the difference between gaining or losing a potential client, customer, donor or member of your organization.

6. Never use, “We’re just a non-profit organization,” as an excuse

What a cop-out! I even hear, “we’re just a small business,” which is equally offensive. Does this truly mean people cannot expect professionalism from a non-profit or small business? Please.

7. Wear appropriate professional business and event attire

Name tags with name and a professional logo.

It does matter how you look when you appear in the office or attend meetings and events. There is something uplifting whenever I see everyone in an office dressed nicely and displaying good grooming habits. By this I mean no sloppy hair with dandruff, clean well trimmed fingernails, and nice smiles showing clean teeth. It bothers me when I see employees wearing wrinkled, dirty, stained, torn clothes that fit poorly. Their attire is better suited to a backyard.

The clothes people wear at your company are a sign of how much the company cares about its professional appearance, which then transfers to caring about the employees appearance in all other aspects of their work. If a company appears not to care about their own personal appearance, what else might it not care about in its work? Tests have shown when an office is more professionally dressed, productivity and accuracy increases. Also, when you hold an event that specifies a certain attire (example: black tie) everyone attending—staff and board members included—must dress in what is being advertised. Otherwise, you are not holding the event in full integrity. Volunteers should equally be asked to wear specific clothes; perhaps black pants and white shirt or blouse.

8. Say thank you and send professional thank you notes

Say thank you and send thank you notes as often as possible. They show your appreciation and acknowledgment of someone’s work and contributions to the organization. They are the key and at the core of building and sustaining lasting relationships among co-workers, bosses, clients, customers, family, friends and anyone with whom you come into contact. For the best impact, send thank you notes, written by hand and sent by regular mail, within 24 to 48 hours after the event. You can never write too many.

BONUS: One of my biggest pet peeves when attending events is how the organizers print name tags, often at a font size that you cannot read at any distance. What a waste of intention and energy. Name tags are the most critical component to the success or failure of an event. It’s the difference between making or not making important connections by virtue of seeing someone’s name tag at a distance.

QUESTION: What pet peeves do you have about companies and non-profits in terms of their professional image not being as good as they should be?


Syndi Seid is the world’s leading etiquette trainer, celebrity speaker and founder of San Francisco-based Advanced Etiquette.

Find your logo name tags today!

The Perfect Thank You Note

By, Syndi Seid

With Halloween coming up, then Thanksgiving, and finally all the end-of-the-year holiday celebrations upon us soon, we thought this might be a great opportunity to revisit the guidelines to sending a perfect thank you note.

No matter what, a personal, handwritten thank you note is the finest form of expressing gratitude for almost anything and everything we receive from someone in life, especially a gift.

A gift can be many things: a physical item, a good job someone has done for you at work or at home and an invitation to a party or meal. In fact, how about using the next two months to catch up on all those thank-you notes you’ve been meaning to send. In business it’s the perfect time — before the end-of-the-year rush — to send clients, customers, vendors and suppliers your note of appreciation for their business and service. By starting to get them written now, you can avoid being rushed and out of time later. Write them all now and send them later.

Here is a simple guide for thank you notes for both business and personal use:

Ideally, send thank you notes within 24 to 48 hours of receiving the gift. The sooner you send it, the greater the impact it will have. However, it is never too late to send a note. Use this month of thanks to catch up on your thank yous, no matter how much time has gone by.

To save time and stress, keep a supply of note cards and stationery, plus postage stamps to have ready at all times. Write all your notes by hand. Take your time, regardless of how impaired you think your handwriting looks. Also, forget going green on this task. It does take the most effort and time, yet is the most tangible evidence of our genuine appreciation of the person to whom it is addressed. Pay attention to how the card faces when opened. I can’t tell you how many times I receive cards written on the wrong side or in the wrong direction.

*For vertical, left creased cards: begin writing on the inner, right side of the folded card.

*For horizontal, top creased cards: begin writing on the inner, lower side of the folded card.

*Some cards are difficult to tell which way it is intended to face. Be sure to look at the back side of the card for guidance in this area.

Begin the note based on your relationship with the receiver.

*For personal correspondence where you are accustomed to calling the person by their first name: Dear John and Mary, (first name followed by a comma is correct).

*For business notes, stick to formal salutations until you are invited to address the person by the first name: Dear Ms. Smith: (an honorific and last name, followed by a colon is proper).

*For informal business notes, addressed to someone with whom you want to address by their first name: Dear John: (first name and a colon is also appropriate).

Be specific in your thanks. When thanking someone for inviting you to a meal or event, mention how happy you were to share in the experience, mention a person you enjoyed meeting, or a food item you particularly liked. When thanking someone for performing a favor for you, explain how important their gift of time was for you. For physical gifts, name the item, along with something nice and complimentary about it.

*Don’t say: “Dear Aunt Sarah, Thank you for the lovely gift. I really like it. Love, Syndi”.

*Do say: “Dear Aunt Sarah, Thank you very much for the beautiful black sweater for my birthday. It’s just the perfect item to wear at an evening occasion where I want to stay warm, yet still look dressy. Your loving niece, Syndi Seid”.

Sign your first and last name clearly at the end of your note. An exception may be to an immediate family member who knows who you are by your handwriting. Address the envelope using the person’s full name and appropriate honorific. Include your full name and return address. Use a regular postage stamp rather than metered postage to send your note.

Happy Thanking!

BONUS: This month, with enjoying football games and other events, I suggest you take some time to send at least eight (it’s a good luck number) quick and simple handwritten notes by regular mail. Take a moment to show your appreciation and thankfulness to someone you know for whatever reason you want, perhaps if only to say Hello!

Syndi Seid is a regular contributing writer, professional speaker/trainer, and founder of a San Francisco-based business that offers monthly etiquette articles.