Business Meeting Etiquette

Business colleagues in meeting
Maintain your professional manners during business meetings. altrendo images/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Do you work for a company that has frequent meetings? Do you ever wonder what you're supposed to do and what is considered proper behavior at these gatherings? Do you dread attending the meetings because you're afraid you might commit a faux pas that could jeopardize your position or opportunities for advancement?

Typically, managers, team leaders, or corporate executives reserve the right to initiate business meetings when they feel the need.

Whether they are regularly scheduled events or called for a specific purpose, everyone in attendance should follow proper business etiquette guidelines.

Leader

Before the meeting, it is essential to have everything organized so you don't waste anyone's valuable time. You want it to run as smoothly and on schedule as possible yet still leave time for questions and feedback if possible. The key is to show respect for everyone involved.

Here are some recommended guidelines:

  • Have a written agenda with a logical sequence and realistic times. If time and resources allow, send copies to everyone who will attend.
  • Send an invitation to prospective attendees with as many specifics about the meeting, as possible, including location, start time, what to bring, and end time.
  • Start with a friendly greeting and let everyone know when it is okay to ask questions.
  • Have water at the podium or front of the room and sip it between topics or when someone else is speaking.
  • You don't need to write down your speech verbatim, but you should at least have bullet points in your notes. Not doing so may cause you to jump around from one topic to another and lose track of what you need to say. This can cause you to waste time and leave the attendees wondering about the point of the meeting.
  • Be aware of your attendees' body language. If you see that people are losing interest, pause and check yourself to make sure you're not repeating information or spending too much time on something that isn't relevant.
  • Have a few anecdotes to keep the meeting interesting. However, avoid telling inappropriate jokes that have even a hint of sexism, racism, or anything else that might offend others.
  • Never steal other people's ideas and call them your own. Always give credit to others for ideas and successful tasks.
  • While it is okay to move about a little, don't pace back and forth across the front of the room. This makes you appear nervous.
  • During the question and answer period, remain quiet until the person asking finishes before answering. If you don't understand the question, ask him or her to repeat it or further explain the query.
  • If someone appears angry or hostile, maintain your cool and ask the person to discuss this with you at a later time.
  • End the meeting early if possible. It's better for it to be shorter than to lose the attention of those in attendance.

Attendees

Everyone who is called to the meeting should attend unless circumstances don't allow. If you know about the meeting in advance, consider taking extra time with your personal grooming to show respect for any supervisors who attend.

Dress appropriately for the business level.

Meeting manners tips:

  • If you are asked to send a confirmation message, do it as soon as you enter the meeting on your calendar.
  • Show up on time. Get there a few minutes early if possible.
  • Check your cell phone and make sure it is on silent or turned off. You should never send text messages during a meeting, unless the leader asks you to for a specific person.
  • If refreshments are served, a beverage is acceptable. However, unless everyone else is eating, wait until after the meeting is over to have a snack.
  • If this is a lunch meeting, bring your food to the table and eat it as quietly as possible and without calling attention to yourself.
  • Don't chat or exchange notes with other attendees. This is very disruptive and can give the impression that you don't take your job seriously enough to pay close attention to what is being discussed.
  • If you are called on, answer as directly as possible. When you don't know the answer, apologize and be honest. No answer is better than the wrong one.
  • After the meeting, thank the speaker.
  • Don't linger in the meeting room longer than necessary. Hanging out will make you appear idle, and you don't want the boss to think you are using the meeting to shirk your duties.

Meetings in a Restaurant

Sometimes a lunch meeting is called, and it may be held at a restaurant. Even though this is away from the office, remember that you are still at work. 

Additional meeting tips for restaurant meetings: