The 6 "Be's" of Meeting Etiquette

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A meeting can be very productive. A meeting can be a veritable nightmare. A lot depends on the professionalism of the participants.

I’ve devised a list that I think provides a broad but helpful guide that, if followed by meeting attendees, will result in a quality meeting where objectives can be met, and the tearing out of hair by its roots by participants can be greatly reduced, if not eliminated.

  • Be on time – In fact, don’t just be on time, be early. There are few things that can keep a meeting from getting on track better than having new attendees filing into the room (or “beeping” on as they join the call) throughout the course of the meeting. Granted, sometimes things beyond one’s control may lead to a rare punctuality “hiccup”. That should be the very rare exception. If you have to travel to the meeting, make provisions for bad traffic or other potential delays.
  • Be prepared – It is so utterly frustrating to try to lead a meeting or even attend a meeting for which folks have not completed their assignments. In the case of a review meeting for a project deliverable, ALWAYS review the document beforehand and come to the meeting prepared with any questions or comments that you feel you need to raise. Don’t use valuable meeting time as your first pass.
  • Be attentive – If at all possible, turn off the cell phone. Quit answering pages and text messages. Don’t use meeting time for napping and daydreaming. It is very unprofessional and evident to others when someone is spacing out during a meeting, or working feverishly to pay attention to everything but the flow of the meeting.
  • Be concise – No one enjoys meetings that go long. Let’s get in, accomplish what we need to, and get out. When participating in discussion, try to be sensitive to the amount of time allotted for the meeting, and the amount of material that has yet to be covered. Try to restrict comments and discussions to specific matters pertinent to the meeting agenda. Don’t try to turn a 30 minute status meeting into a personal deposition on how to solve world hunger.
  • Be courteous – Hear other meeting participants’ ideas out. Listen first for a change. Don’t be the guy that just has to dominate the discussion with no apparent regard for the thoughts and ideas of others.
  • Be real – Listen, in most cases the meeting is not going to be all about you, so don’t approach it that way. You’re just another cog in the machine. You’re as valuable as anyone else – don’t get me wrong – but the value of the group setting is in pooling ideas and taking advantages of the synergies of multiple able minds working toward a common end.

Obviously, there is more to be said about professional courtesy in meetings than 6 high-level bullets can provide. There are probably books and seminars the subject, but that’s not my game. I do hope that you’ll find these useful, though.

Feel free to drop a comment if you have additions or suggestions.

3 Comments

  1. The thing that drives me nuts at team meetings is when people bring their laptops. Now that WiFi is everywhere people can continue to plug away and occasionally peak over the top of their LCD when they hear their name.

    My tips for an effective meeting:
    1.) No laptops allowed
    2.) Remove all the chairs – this tends to keep things moving along.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Mark. I hear you loud and clear about the laptops. In my experience prohibiting them probably isn’t going far enough, though.

    Nowadays you’ve got people plugging away on their Blackberries and doing e-mail via PDA phone, all the while looking as serious as if it were life and death!

    I think you’re onto something, though.. While we’re at it, let’s add the bullet:

    7. Turn off all electronic devices!

    Not sure I follow you on removing all the chairs, tho..

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