By Nancy R. Mitchell, The Etiquette Advocate
It is safe to say that Woody Allen wasn't referring to business
meetings when he said, "Eighty percent of success is showing
A great deal more is required to produce a successful
meeting--preparation, organization, skillful execution and
follow-up. And, there is one more key element of this formula
that will help to improve the overall experience for meeting
stakeholders--etiquette. By improving
their meeting manners, hosts and participants can insure that
meetings run smoothly. So, when you're polishing your next
PowerPoint presentation, take a few minutes to polish your
manners, as well.
Here are some guidelines that will help you to be certain
your meeting manners measure up:
PARTICIPANTS' MANNERS AGENDA
If an agenda is sent in advance of a meeting, read it and
prepare, if necessary. Don't waste the time of the host or
other participants by attending a meeting unprepared.
Arrive on time. If an unforeseen circumstance causes you to
arrive late, quietly slip into a chair and do not interrupt
the discussion or presentation. If an opportunity presents
itself for you to apologize briefly (perhaps as you begin
your first contribution to the discussion), do so. At the
very least, try to make eye contact with the meeting host
and silently mouth, "I'm sorry." Explain your tardiness to
the host at the end of the meeting.
Stand behind your chair at the meeting table until you are
invited to take a seat. Introduce
yourself to others as they approach their seats. For any
number of reasons, a meeting organizer may have planned a
specific seating arrangement. It is
embarrassing for all concerned if you have to be asked to
move to another chair once you have seated yourself.
If business cards are exchanged prior to the beginning of a
meeting, you may arrange them in front of you on the
conference table in the order that people are seated at the
table. This will help you to keep names,
titles and affiliations clear in your mind. Do not write on
the cards during the meeting.
Do not place personal belongings on the table when you take
your seat--cell phone, BlackBerry, pager, handbag,
briefcase. Place these items under your chair or in an
empty chair pushed under the table. You may place a
notebook, pad of paper or a portfolio on the table with the
meeting agenda. When meeting with someone for the first
time or when meeting in a venue for the first time, don't
arrive with a water bottle or coffee cup. By doing so, you
are demonstrating a lack of respect for a person or
organization by being too informal at the beginning of a
relationship. If the meeting organizers offer food or
beverage, you may accept. However, if you are ill at ease
in the new surroundings or nervous prior to a presentation,
it is best to skip the accoutrements and focus on your
agenda. International Protocol
Tip: In certain cultures, you will
offend a host by not accepting this hospitality.
Do your homework prior to dealing with clients
and colleagues from other countries.
Turn off electronic devices when entering a meeting room.
If you have forgotten to do so and your phone rings during
a meeting, immediately apologize and say, "I am so
sorry. I thought I had turned it off."
Then, reach down (because you have placed the phone in your
handbag or briefcase under your chair) and, without
looking at the display or answering to explain to the
caller that you can't talk, turn it off. If you are
expecting a critical business call during a meeting,
explain this to the host prior to the start of the meeting,
place the phone on vibrate and keep it out of sight in your
pocket or lap, and quietly excuse yourself from the room
when the call comes in.
Don't interrupt others when they are speaking and don't
monopolize a discussion. If you have been allotted 10
minutes on the agenda, don't speak for 12.
Don't place a tape recorder on the table to tape the
proceedings, even if only for the purpose of note taking,
without clearing it in advance with the meeting host or
organizer. If taping is approved, inform participants.
Stay to the end of the meeting unless you have informed the
host in advance that you must leave early.
Remove all items you have brought into a meeting room or
placed on a meeting table. Offer to assist the meeting
organizer to clear away meeting materials and trash.
HOSTS' MANNERS AGENDA
Prepare and distribute an agenda prior to the meeting. This
indicates that you are organized and that you respect the
participants and their time. Also, it sets a no-nonsense
tone for the meeting.
Arrive early in order to set up the room, test equipment,
distribute handouts, and greet and seat participants. Make
certain that the temperature of the room is comfortable.
Start the meeting on time. Show respect
for the participants who managed to arrive on time, and set
a precedent for punctual meetings.
Introduce everyone in the room, including support personnel
who may be there to assist with equipment or note taking.
It is rude not to do so. If you do not know everyone in the
room, you may say, "Let's introduce ourselves before we
Ask a participant or a member of your team to serve as
meeting facilitator in order to keep to the schedule and
agenda. Designate a note-taker and, after the meeting,
distribute the notes to all participants. If you plan to
tape the proceedings for any reason, inform participants
before the meeting begins.
Give a brief overview of the meeting agenda and state the
goal or desired outcome.
Ask participants to turn off cell phones, BlackBerrys, or
pagers during the meeting.
If food or beverages are served, include healthy options.
Offer food that is easy to eat during a meeting. For long
meetings, schedule a sufficient number of breaks. The first
break after lunch should be one hour into the afternoon
End on time. Do not assume that participants can remain
beyond the end time that was announced. Also, if you run
over your allotted time, you will impact the meeting that
may follow yours.
Remove all meeting materials, equipment and trash from the
So, when you are preparing for your next meeting, be it the
weekly team pow-wow or a make-it-or-break-it presentation to
a potential client, put manners on your agenda.
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