Business meetings are held for a variety of reasons, but one common characteristic is the sharing of information with others. As in dining, there are rules of etiquette that go along with meetings. Unfortunately in my experiences today, business meeting etiquette is a lost or ignored mannerism that needs to be retrained.
I recently was leading a meeting of business owners and managers who meet together to help find resources and ideas to build each others businesses. One persons cell phone rang in the middle of a presentation. Before the meeting I did not ask attenders to silence their phones, so I can forgive this unintentional interruption. But instead of silencing it, the person answered the phone. Not only did they answer it, they carried on a conversation for a brief time. I was appalled at the lack of courtesy.
In our society today, I believe we have gotten so technical and fast-paced that we forget about the other person and common courtesy at meetings. If I were to have a list of rules for business meeting etiquette to share with others, these are my top seven rules below:
- Do not put your Blackberry, Treo, or other email organizer on the table. What does this do? Every time an email is received it causes a vibration that is echoed through the table for the whole room to hear and causes as much a distraction as if the phone rang. Turn it off, put it away, get it out of sight. If you are seeing it then your mind will be concerned with it and not the meeting at hand.
- Do not be late. If you do arrive late, do not make excuses to everyone while the presenter is speaking. Step in quickly and quietly while taking your seat. The less interruption the better.
- Do not leave your cell phone on. This goes along with #1. We all know what an interruption this can cause.
- Do not talk on your phone during the meeting. Just in case you forgot to turn it off, do not answer the phone in the middle of a meeting.
- Do not carry on a conversation while someone else is talking. I cannot believe the number of times I have witnessed someone trying to carry on a conversation with another in the middle of a presentation.
- Do not come to the meeting unprepared. Prepared means in the way of carrying a pen, pencil, paper, notepad; whatever it takes for you to be ready if information is shared.
- Do not make your presence known by making noises. Noises being pen or pencil tapping, paper shuffling, coughing continuously; if necessary, leave the room.
If you are a manager and have people who frequently display a lack of meeting etiquette, consider offering a mini-seminar to your department. Not only will it reinforce positive behavior but it will get your message across without you verbalizing it.
For those individuals hoping to aspire to a certain level in business, learn and practice good business meeting etiquette. If practiced effectively it will help to launch your position in business and you will always be a welcome presence with your peers.