10 Business Meeting Etiquette Tips to Kill Awkwardness
With these meeting etiquette tips, you can stay on the good side of people in the office. Meetings are part of the everyday lives of most professionals – but that doesn’t mean they’re always professional.
Business meetings can be hotbeds of annoying habits and not-so-professional behavior.No need to join the ranks of the folks who make meetings difficult. Good meeting etiquette can improve your image at the office, earn respect from people and encourage cooperation.
Most important, it can make meetings run smoother. A quick review of Robert’s rules of order might be a good place to start.Then you’re ready to move on to these meeting etiquette tips to keep your professional image during meetings. (More to the point, here are tips for your co-workers so they stop driving you crazy during meetings.)
1. Be on time
Don’t be late to the meeting. This might seem like a no-brainer, but think for a moment. When was the last meeting you attended where everyone was there on time? It’s easy to get sidetracked and distracted at the office. Work beckons, people swing by your desk, and doing “just one last thing” can lead you quickly down a rabbit hole – all of which can make you late to the meeting.People scheduled the meeting in advance for a reason. Plan ahead. Set multiple reminders, and don’t start any new projects immediately before a meeting begins. Do you have a chronic problem? If you simply can’t overcome being late on your own, enlist someone’s help. Have them drop by your desk on their way to the meeting so you can “carpool” down the hall to the meeting space.
2. Mingle before the meeting
Now that you’re super punctual, you may even have a few minutes before the meeting starts. Use that time well. Learn about what projects others are working on while you hang out and sip your coffee. If there are new folks in the meeting, take advantage of the opportunity and introduce yourself. Better yet, introduce people to each other. That person hiding out in a corner might be too shy to walk up to someone they don’t know, so you can do them a favor by stepping in.The biggest takeaway, here, though, is to do your socializing before the meeting begins. When the meeting organizer is speaking is not the right time to chat with your colleagues, even if you whisper on the side.
3. Be concise
Have you ever wanted to throw your coffee cup at the guy across the table who just will not get to the point? Don’t be that guy. Ask your question or say what you need to say as succinctly as possible.
Here are two pro tips to keep your conversation concise:
- Don’t repeat yourself. It can be hard to notice when you do this. So look for these red-flag phrases: “As I said” and “Again.” If you catch yourself saying either one of those phrases, you’re probably repeating yourself.
- Give only the information necessary to make your point. Most likely, the group sitting around the table with you doesn’t need to know the entire backstory behind your interaction with a customer, for example. They only need to know what the customer’s problem was and how you resolved it.
4. Stand when you’re being introduced
You’ll get noticed when you’re on your feet. If you’re at the table and get introduced to someone before the meeting starts, stand up. Also stand if you’re new and the meeting organizer introduces you to the room.While it’s great to be polite, there’s more to it. Standing will help you establish a more professional presence, too. That presence will take you far when it comes to being listened to and respected around the office.
5. Have an agenda
This tip is mainly aimed at meeting organizers, but it’s good to have ideas in mind for what you’ll contribute, even if you’re not running the show. Create your own “agenda” of your contributions.
If you’re leading the meeting, a well-constructed agenda will:
- Keep everyone on track
- Help people know what to prepare for
- Quickly identify off-topic items that need to be tabled for later
Create the agenda and send it around before the meeting. Ideally, share it several days or a week in advance so everyone has time to prepare and raise any concerns.
6. Come prepared
Have respect for the person holding the meeting and for the other people in the room. Chances are good you did, in fact, get an agenda with time to prepare. Be ready for your part of the meeting before the meeting.Come to the meeting with the materials you need, an understanding of the topics on the agenda, and a list of any questions or opinions you want to voice.
7. Avoid eating at the table (or at least, don’t eat alone)
You might have missed lunch or you just love to snack, so you’re tempted to bring food. However, it’s a pretty sure bet your meeting isn’t in a cafeteria. Do your best to tame your hunger pangs. Obviously, there are exceptions. Your meeting might be catered or have snacks set out for everyone to enjoy. Maybe it’s the norm in your office to munch while in meetings. It’s still wise to be aware of how your eating might distract people from discussion.If you’re the only one with food, besides the smell, mess, and chewing or wrapper noises, eating at the meeting table may sidetrack people’s attention to your food, not the topic at hand. For meetings scheduled before lunch or late in the day, you won’t be making any friends if you remind them how hungry they are while you chow down.
Pro-Tip: If you’re the meeting organizer, don’t let people go hungry for long. You’ll have better productivity when people have their basic needs met. Make sure they get breaks during lengthy meetings so they have the chance to eat and use the restroom before they get uncomfortable (and distracted!).
8. Put your phone away
And your tablet. And your laptop. The other people around the table will notice that you’re multitasking and not paying attention. People at Richard Branson’s company are insistent on adhering to this meeting etiquette tip.You may think you’re an exception, but you’re probably not the only one who has work waiting on them when the meeting’s over. If you need your device to take notes during the meeting, let the other people know what you’re doing so they don’t think you’re just being rude.If your phone rings (or buzzes, because surely your phone is on vibrate) while you’re in the meeting, don’t be swayed by temptation. Do you really need to take that call? If so, step out of the room.
9. Use your outside voice
No need to be shy. You came to the meeting prepared and you’re in the room to contribute, so go right ahead and speak up. Project your voice – and stand if necessary (in large meeting rooms, this is especially helpful). If the other people in the room can’t hear you, they’ll either miss your important point or ask you to repeat yourself – both of which can distract from the meeting.That said, don’t get so caught up in projecting your voice that you talk over someone else. If you're leading the meeting and have problems getting people to participate, try using these tactics.
10. Ask questions at the right time
When possible, come to the meeting prepared with questions, and ask them as the related topics arise. Questions will also come up as the meeting moves along. By asking them while everyone’s still on that topic, you'll keep things moving more efficiently. If you wait until the end of the meeting, everyone’s minds have moved on to other things.Are you running the meeting? Ask the group if anyone has any questions at the end of each topic discussion. You’ll keep people on point and move the meeting forward faster than revisiting various topics at the end. Also, this will raise a flag that you’re about to change topics, and people can take the opportunity to speak up.
Try these meeting etiquette tips and make your meetings better
While some of these 10 meeting etiquette tips may apply to you, they might be most helpful when shared with others. There’s probably a few people in your office that are guilty of at least one of the above. Now’s your chance to share this list and remind people how meetings can be better for everyone.What’s the most annoying thing you’ve experienced in a meeting? We’d love to hear about it (and commiserate). Share in the comments below.