Proper meeting etiquette is important in all businesses; big, small, casual, formal, etc. There are definite things you should and should not do while in a meeting with either colleagues or customers. How do you know what actions are appropriate in a meeting? While every business is different, here are some general tips and guidelines on how to survive a business meeting with grace, professionalism and respect.
Read the meeting agenda ahead of time (if possible). Prepare questions you have for the meeting organizer. If there is something specific you want to add to the meeting agenda, prepare what you will say when it's your turn to talk, and be able to effectively guide the conversation so that your questions get answered and points are understood.
Also, bring materials you may need in the meeting. This includes pen and paper, something to drink, or any handouts you were asked to bring along.
Meetings can sometimes be boring, but that doesn't mean you can nap through them. Pay attention to the presenter, the materials as well as the dialogue between your colleagues. Listen for things that pertain to you, as you may be asked to share your thoughts on any given subject at any time. Failure to pay attention during a critical time will have an adverse affect on not only your professionalism, but also your credibility. When the presenter asks questions, answer when you can.
Taking notes helps you pay attention and stay focused in a meeting. Even for short meetings, come prepared to take notes. You may learn a new process or receive a task to accomplish during the meeting; you don't want to forget it during the walk back to your desk.
Smile, make eye contact, shake hands when introducing yourself, and make small talk while waiting for the meeting to start. If you speak during the meeting, make sure to talk to everyone, not just your boss or the meeting leader.
Look interested during the meeting whether you are or not. Lean forward, use proper facial expressions, take notes, answer and/or ask questions.
If an acronym or abbreviation you are not familiar with is used, ask what it means and what it stands for – right away. If you wait several minutes to ask after a discussion surrounding an acronym what the acronym is – it is time wasted. Ask for examples when a process doesn't seem clear. Ask for further explanation as soon as you need it when you don't understand something.
- Don't engage in side conversations
Even if the person sitting next to you is your best friend, keep side conversations for after the meeting. If you need clarification for something said during the meeting, ask the presenter directly or make a note to ask at the end of the meeting.
The presenter spent time preparing the meeting. Don't interrupt them. Wait for a break or for question/comment time if you need to say something.
Flipping through paperwork is distracting to yourself, as well as those around you. Follow along in the meeting, but don't flip through the handouts during the meeting. You will be distracting and it will be obvious you are not paying attention.
- Don't play with your cell phone or computer
Shut your ringer off and turn the volume off on your computer. If you are taking notes on a computer, make sure you are not also playing online. Others may be able to see your screen (computer or cell phone) and again, it will be obvious you are not paying attention.
- Don't get up until the meeting ends or has a break
Unless it is absolutely necessary, wait until the end of a meeting or a break time to get up. It can be considered disrespectful to leave in the middle of a meeting and shows you are not paying close attention if you get up at an inappropriate time to take a phone call, use the restroom or get something to drink.
Not all meetings are interesting, but daydreaming is a definite no-no. The chances of falling asleep, missing an important announcement, or even a direct question to you increase drastically if you are thinking about what to make for dinner or what to do this weekend.
Doodling may help some people stay awake, but it can be distracting, not to mention a signal to others you may be bored with the subject matter. If you need the movement of doodling to stay awake, take notes instead.
Every meeting is different and each business has different expectations for meeting etiquette. Before the meeting, do some research and ask questions so you know what to expect and what is expected of you. Also, pay attention to your colleagues. Certainly other people in your meetings will be doing things to distract you – so you will learn what to do and what not to do by being aware of your surroundings.