PASADENA – Pamela Hillings doesn’t have to look much further than her own childhood for inspiration on how to help prepare the young women on the Tournament of Roses Royal Court for the spotlight.The daughter of a former U.S. congressman, she attended more than a normal teenager’s share of formal dinners, rubbing elbows with politicians and other dignitaries. She remembers the shortcuts family members shared with her then, and she has incorporated them into her work over the past decade as the official etiquette consultant to the Royal Court.It’s often simple things, like providing the princesses with short biographies of the people sitting at their tables at the President’s Dinner. It’s what her uncle once did for her, after all, and it made it that much easier for her to ask intelligent questions. In the intervening years, etiquette has undergone some subtle changes, but the art of conversation has only increased in importance, Hillings said. “Etiquette has changed because we’re so busy,” said Hillings, who has worked as an etiquette consultant for 25 years. “Families do not sit down to the dinner table as much as they used to. The other change is high-tech etiquette. Our communication is completely different.“To be a good conversationalist is crucial,” Hillings said. “It is natural, but what I do is just try to tell them the secret: You ask questions or you pay them a compliment, and that’s how you get going. It gets them talking about themselves, and it’s a great skill.“You need to always think of the other person, not yourself. A lot of it is that we’re a much more diverse culture. You just need to be aware of who you’re with.”In about 15 hours with the Royal Court, Hillings also covers dining skills, the importance of punctuality and thank-you notes and the proper method of making introductions. Even with technological advances such as e-mail, proper etiquette calls for an old-fashioned thank you, Hillings said. “The handwritten thank-you note is not out of date yet,” she said. “The main thing is to acknowledge `thank you,’ but most people don’t have the time.” Members of the Royal Court take turns writing thank-you notes after each of their appearances. In fact, thank-you note supplies are kept in the glove compartments of each of the official Tournament of Roses vans to expedite the process. Proper etiquette, Hillings said, transcends table manners and textbook-perfect social graces.“It’s more than what fork to use ? that’s not the answer,” Hillings said. “It’s really respect for others. You can’t be too busy to pay attention to others. Whether you meet a 5-year-old girl or the president of Eastman Kodak, you treat everyone the same.” gretchen.[email protected](626) 578-6300, Ext. 4494 AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREBlues bury Kings early with four first-period goals 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!