“Sorry I forgot,” or “sorry, I was busy” are the excuses a leader often hears when his staff fails to attend a meeting.
Personally, I think both the business world and volunteer world could borrow a page from the book of Emily Post the maven queen of etiquette and politeness.
A good business meeting is one where all the stakeholders show courtesy and respect.
This approach conveys a simple message: we’re all professionals here, so let’s not waste each others time and have a productive meeting.
There’s not much out there written and researched on the topic of Business Meeting Etiquette. So I’ve decided to write this blog post on what I’ve learned from my experience into the Ten Commandments Of Business Meetings.
RSVP is derived from the French phrase Répondez s’il vous plaît meaning “Please respond.”
When asked via phone, email, or electronic calendar to attend a business meeting, be sure to reply if a reply is requested. Some meetings are structured, meals and spaces secured on the basis of expected attendance.
The polite thing to do is to reply. Avoid being the person the invitee has to follow up.
Attend the Entire Meeting. Leave only when the meeting is dismissed. If you have to leave before the end of the meeting — establish prior permission. This can be very disruptive to other attendees and inconsiderate of the speaker.
Arrive early, at least 30 – 5 minutes before the meeting is the expected to start, depending on the distance and your role in the meeting. I’ve seen people arrive just on or past the hour, looking flushed and disturbing the flow of the meeting in session.
No good leader will delay a meeting for unexcused late comers. If you arrive late, you risk missing valuable information and lose the chance to provide your input. Also, you should not expect others to fill you in during or after the meeting; everyone is busy, and those who were conscientious enough to arrive on time should not have to recap the meeting for you.
It’s also important to understand that late tardiness is incredibly disrespectful in a Monochronic Culture. In a monochronic culture (like the United States or countries in northern Europe), time is a commodity. So showing up late, especially for a meeting or a dinner, usually comes across as very disrespectful. A monochronic culture unlike a Polychronic culture, (which focuses more on relationships than agendas, such as southern Europe, Africa and Latin America) functions on clock time. It is important to respect the culture you work in or serve.
3. Come Prepared
Always bring something to write on, as well as to write with. Never trust a leader who does not take notes or ask action specific questions like, “Just to confirm that I understand you correctly,” or “What is expected of me and by when is it due?”
If you know you will be presenting information, ensure that your handouts, PowerPoint slides, etc., are organised and ready. Unpreparedness creates an unwelcoming tension that quenches the flow of creativity. Meetings are usually called to convey information; it is insulting not to come with something to write and it is disruptive to ask others for a paper and pen.
4. Do Not Interrupt
This is a common dilemma in a meeting. Interruptions rob you of productivity and fogs clarity. Interjecting while a person is still speaking or directly cutting someone else off to speak over them or finishing their sentence for them and then launching into what you have to say, is insulting. It’s also frustrating for the speaker because the message they’re getting from you is, “I don’t care what you have to say. What I’m going to talk about is more important.”
So speak in turn. When asking a question, it usually is more appropriate to raise your hand than to blurt out your question. Other attendees may have questions, and the speaker needs to acknowledge everyone.
Sometimes we’re eager to speak and can interrupt without meaning any harm by it. If you catch yourself interrupting someone you can usually recover by saying, “Oh sorry, I cut you off. What were you saying?”
It is okay to interrupt if someone is talking a hole through your ear.
Don’t save all your questions for the end. Ask your questions at the appropriate time.
Do not be the person who starts “asking questions and adding stuff that doesn’t need to be added” when everyone’s getting ready to wrap it up.
5. Abstain from Electronics
In the 80s cell phones were somewhat of a status symbol, but we are way past that now. Today your mobile phone is the uninvited guest at the meeting or dinner table.
In movie theatres, a request is made to “Please silence cell phones.” The same rule applies to meetings. A lot of people keep their phones on the table during meetings. Don’t do this. Even if you aren’t looking at your phone, it can get distracting if it starts lighting up or vibrating.
6. Never Gossip
Never speak ill of or against someone, especially if they are not present to defend themselves. Unless a meeting was specifically convened to discuss a person’s performance or derailing attitude; even so, decorum is necessary.
I’ve witnessed something over the years that remains true, ‘with the measure you judge, you shall be judged.’ If someone gossips to you about others, it means they are gossiping about you before others. If you partake of this, you will lose the respect of the best.
7. Keep Your Questions Brief
When asking questions, be succinct and clear. If your question is detailed, break it into parts or several questions, but be sure to ask only one question at a time; others may have questions as well.
Please don’t be a PARROT (repeat what has already been stated). Also, make your questions count, be on topic, relevant and clear.
8. Pay Attention
Listen to the issues the speaker addresses, the questions from the attendees and the answers provided.
You do not want to waste meeting time asking a question that has already been asked.
9. Be Patient and Calm
Do not fidget, drum your fingers, tap your pen, flip through or read materials not concerning the meeting or act in a disruptive manner. If you are having coffee, clean up after you. Leave the meeting room as you have found it.
10. Respond to Action Items
After the meeting, be sure to complete any tasks assigned to you as expeditiously as possible; file your meeting notes or any formalized minutes for later review or to prepare for future meetings.