Meetings are an indispensable part of every organization’s operations. At team meetings, you make plans, carry out evaluations, and reach decisions.
As you know, meetings are not restricted to just a work environment, although that’s where it’s most used. Teams utilize meetings to rub minds and make plans.
Whether it’s a virtual or physical meeting, meeting etiquette must be followed to ensure efficiency and productivity. Imagine a meeting where everyone is talking simultaneously, numerous phone calls disrupt the conversation’s flow, there’s no meeting agenda, everyone shows up late, and the majority is scrolling through social media. It would be total chaos.
Therefore, every attendee must exude professionalism by adhering to meeting etiquette for a meeting to be productive.
Essentially, meeting etiquette is a standard of behavior expected of attendees in a meeting or the workplace.
It’s like table manners, but during business meetings. Everyone participating in the meeting is required to display high levels of professionalism. You shouldn’t act in a carefree manner. You’re to comport yourself very well, be polite in your interaction, and treat everyone with respect.
Meeting etiquettes may vary according to organizations, but there are general etiquettes that apply regardless of setting. For example, in any meeting, you’re expected to listen without interrupting, put away your phones and other forms of distraction, and speak politely.
Without meeting etiquette, meetings would be chaotic. It’s like a society without laws - the outcome is anarchy. Meeting etiquettes are the rules that preserve the sanity of meetings. When followed, they help to keep everyone in check.
To be more specific, meeting etiquette is important because it improves communication in a meeting. Behaviors such as not interrupting others while they speak and addressing others politely and with respect can foster effective communication.
Another thing is that meeting etiquette enhances productivity. Etiquette such as creating and sticking to an agenda, coming early to a meeting, actively listening, and participating are drivers that improve the efficiency of the meeting. And when meetings are efficient, you know it was a good use of time.
Finally, etiquette promotes good relationships within the team. An environment where people feel valued and respected breeds thriving relationships.
Choose a convenient time
Pick a conducive location with the right equipment
Create a meeting agenda
Be there on time
Carry everyone along
Don’t interrupt others while they’re speaking
Mute yourself if it’s a virtual meeting
Stick to the agenda
Minimize phone usage
Have a good sitting posture
Don’t eat and drink (except water and coffee)
Thank everyone for participating
Let’s discuss each of these etiquette in detail below. We will delineate them into three sections - meeting etiquette before, during, and after the meeting. Note that this etiquette applies to both virtual and physical meetings. So, ensure you’re not falling short of standard in any situation.
Choose a convenient time:
When setting up a meeting, you should work with a time that works best for everyone. Whether it’s a virtual or physical meeting, choosing a convenient time is essential.
Participants may dial in from different locations and time zones for a virtual meeting. Hence, in deciding the meeting time, you must consider each time zone. You can ask participants for suggestions on what time works for them.
You might have to compromise when picking a time. But in whatever you’re doing, ensure that at least 90% of the participants are comfortable with the timing.
Pick a conducive environment with the right equipment:
The location of your meeting impacts the meeting. For instance, if there’s not enough air ventilation for the number of participants, many will feel uncomfortable and may not be able to participate actively. Similarly, if the room is too cold, attendees may feel uneasy, and this may affect their participation.
Also, ensure your meeting room has the right equipment. If you are to connect virtually with other attendees in a different location, you should have a functioning audio-video (A/V) technology in the room. Test-run the equipment before the meeting to ascertain its functionality.
Create a meeting agenda:
To give your meeting direction, you should have a meeting agenda. What are the items to be discussed? What are the issues to be addressed? What should be the outcome of the meeting?
Have these questions answered before you start a meeting. It would be disappointing and a waste of time for attendees if you set up a meeting without having any cogent issues to address.
Also, share the agenda with the attendees ahead. Ask for input or modifications, if necessary. This will help them prepare well for the meeting.
Before attending a meeting, look at the agenda to understand what is up for discussion. Most meeting organizers send out the meeting agenda ahead, so check your email to see if you’ve received it. If it wasn’t sent out, you could request that the agenda be shared with everyone or with you personally.
Don’t just review the meeting agenda; get relevant materials like a pen and a notepad. If any document is shared in view of the meeting, read through to familiarize yourself with its content. Do a little brainstorming so you can have ideas and suggestions to share and questions to ask.
The way you dress for a meeting matters. If it’s a work environment, you should look professional. In some cases, the organizers may ask attendees to dress down. In such a case, you can take a break from the suit and tie. However, ensure you remain decent in your dressing.
Don’t wear revealing clothes or dress shabbily, even if it’s a casual meeting. Display professionalism in your dressing - this equally applies to virtual meetings.
Be there on time:
Punctuality is by far one of the most important meeting etiquettes. Imagine a world where everyone shows up for meetings and doesn’t keep to time. Do you know how chaotic that could be? Except you have a valid excuse, it makes no sense to be strolling into a meeting 20 minutes in. It reeks of unprofessionalism and disregard for time.
Be punctual. If you’re organizing the meeting, start on time and end on time too. If it’s going to take longer than expected, request additional time. It shows that you value and respect other people’s time.
The ideal thing is to be at the meeting venue at least 5 - 10 minutes before the set time. Remember, this also applies to virtual meetings. Log in to the call early.
Chances are there may be a strange face in the room or call. Or perhaps, everyone is meeting each other for the first time. In any case, it is your duty as the meeting organizer to make introductions. Alternatively, you can ask everyone to introduce themselves.
Introductions are necessary because it helps everyone feel welcomed and appreciated.
Carry everyone along:
During the meeting, do well to involve every participant in the deliberation. Don’t focus on one wing of the room and neglect the other. You don’t want anyone to feel left out.
To encourage active participation, you can solicit questions and ideas from everyone. Before getting to that point, consider starting the meeting with icebreakers to build rapport and lighten up attendees' moods.
Don’t interrupt others while they’re speaking:
Barbarians talk in thousands. I’m sure you’re familiar with that statement.
It is a common meeting courtesy to allow someone to finish speaking before you comment. It would be somewhat rude to cut someone midway into their speech. That’s bad communication manners.
There are exceptional cases when it isn’t rude to interrupt. For example, when the person is taking too much time or being unprofessional - like using foul language. In that case, you can cut in to take control of the situation.
Mute yourself if it’s a virtual meeting:
Ensure you mute your mic when you’re not speaking in a virtual meeting. Background sounds from your environment could interrupt and cause a distraction to the meeting.
Stick to the agenda:
When you create an agenda for a meeting, follow it, especially if it has been distributed to attendees ahead of the meeting.
During meetings, there is a tendency to deviate from the agenda at intervals. If that happens, reroute back to the core focus of the meeting. You don’t want it to seem like you told attendees the meeting is about A, and then you go on to talk about C. So, follow the agenda to the letter.
Minimize phone usage:
Scrolling through social media or responding to texts while in a meeting is improper. You should be actively listening and participating. Using your phone can be a distraction. It could even be distracting to others if it makes beeping noises while you’re on it.
So, put away your phone. You can put it in your purse or pocket or leave it out of the room. Except it’s urgent, don’t respond to texts. Put your phone on silence or vibration, and step out of the room if you have to pick up a call.
Have a good sitting posture:
Sit upright or slightly relax on the chair or armrest. But don’t slouch! It indirectly communicates to others that you’re tired of the meeting or disinterested.
Also, minimize your body movements. Swaying back and forth or sideways could be distracting and unprofessional.
The audience shouldn’t have to strain their ears to hear you. After a while, they’d zone out if it’s still difficult to listen to you. So, speak out loud and clear. If it’s a virtual meeting, check your technology to ensure it works fine.
In a bid to be audible, don’t shout. Communicate your points in a clear tone.
Don’t eat and drink (except water and coffee):
It is highly unprofessional to eat and drink during a meeting, especially if it’s in an office setting. You shouldn't have food or snacks in your mouth when speaking to a client on a virtual call. It can affect your speech and focus and be distracting.
Water and coffee are allowed in most situations. But don’t make funny noises when you sip your coffee. It could upset a lot of people.
Thank everyone for participating:
After the meeting, say a word of gratitude to attendees. Even if they’re your employees and have to be at the meeting, still show appreciation. It’s common courtesy, and it wouldn’t take anything from you.
It also sends a message, especially when you make it a habit. It shows that you value their time and contributions to the organization. And this can encourage them to look forward to the next meeting.