I had the immense pleasure of recently being invited to an awards dinner covering my county, it’s a prestigious event where all the local businesses and entrepreneurs get together for a night of great food, lots of drinks and of course awards. This being my first black-tie event, I learnt one or two things besides how to do a bow tie (which is harder than it looks). Here are five lessons that my first black tie event taught me.

#1 – Impressions are made within seconds but last for a lot longer

When I first entered the venue, it was safe to say I had a few nerves considering I’d never been in such an environment. However, one of the first observations I made is that people decide on what you’re like within seconds. You have a matter of seconds to give your impression, but it will last a lot longer than that.

Having never been to such an event, I had a lot of impressions to give and notice. I found myself deciding what I thought of people by looking at how they acted, what they said and, how they said it, among other things. But, these original impressions have lasted; I still remember people from the event and I won’t be forgetting them anytime soon either.

The point I’m trying to make is while these events are a lot of fun, we need to remember that the impression we make on people will last. So, make sure to give the right impression.

#2 – Courtesy goes a long way

Personally, I don’t think I’m too bad with manners and politeness but by no way am I perfect. But, in these social scenes, you must go the extra mile than you would normally and in return people will do it for you.

I’m not suggesting offering to buy every person at the event a drink but if you’re spoken to, address them properly, hold open doors and generally, be a nice person. While these manners seem small at the time, they go a long way.

Being the black-tie newbie, I tried my hardest to be as polite and courteous to people that I could (admittedly it was mainly to avoid treading on people’s toes). And, by the end of the night, I felt part of the event; like I belonged there. People started doing courteous things for me.

It goes to show, that respect is earned; not demanded and when your new, you need to show your worth their respect.

#3 – You can learn a lot by just listening

In these events, your surrounded by knowledge so use it to your advantage. Listen to what people have to say, see how you can apply it to yourself. At the beginning of the evening, we had a guest speaker. Admittedly, he was someone I had never heard of, but he had a lot to say, a lot of experience and knowledge that I was ready to take in and apply to myself.

The guest speaker for the evening was a Michelin star chef who came from the county so how could this knowledge aid me as a writer? Well, simple, we’re both entrepreneurs and the knowledge he had was worth his bad jokes and puns.

He talked about his experiences of starting a new business, getting ripped apart by critics and then rebuilding himself and his company from the ground up into what it is today. I must admit, it was inspiring, reassuring and, worrying for me as someone trying to start a business.

But, I wouldn’t have known any of this if I had been unwilling to listen and just ignored him because he was a chef and that’s irrelevant to what I do. I would have missed out on all his knowledge, something I would’ve regretted.

What I’m trying to say is that you must be willing to listen to people, not just at black tie events but in life itself.