Business meetings are an important part of many people’s jobs, but as they aren’t the primary purpose of someone’s role in a company, how to behave in one is not always something that is taught.
It’s not the same as a casual get together with friends and should never be treated as such, no matter how familiar you are with the other participants. Making sure you’re aware of the etiquette involved is vital. This will ensure that meetings run smoothly and, most importantly, achieve what they set out to do.
As part of our business travel guide articles, here are some general points of etiquette for business meetings.
Arranging the meeting
Even before the meeting starts there are a number of things to consider, especially if you are the organiser.
The usual way to send out invitations is by email, paper invitations are considered old fashioned and not particularly environmentally friendly. If you arrange a meeting by phone you must follow it up with an email to ensure everyone is aware of times in writing. Try to give people as much notice as possible so they are able to effectively prepare.
Key information to include on the invitation would be the date, time and location, obviously, but also the purpose and the objective of the meeting, to ensure the participants are suitably prepared.
Everybody should come to the meeting with a role, an objective and the means to achieve that objective. They should also ensure they completely understand the topic to be discussed.
If you are planning on bringing colleagues along to the meeting, ensure you advise the host beforehand. Your colleagues may bring essential information with them but if there isn’t room for them to sit down it will be embarrassing for everybody concerned.
Arrive in plenty of time
In other words don’t be late, arrive early if at all possible. Arriving late is rude and will make you flustered as it will draw unnecessary attention towards yourself. If the meeting is in a foreign city seek out corporate apartments nearby to make your travel as simple as possible.
Phone & laptop etiquette
In most meetings, the most appropriate thing to do with your phone would be to switch it off completely. If it buzzes in your pocket, even on silent, it could be a distraction to you and those around you.
If you are expecting an important call then advise participants beforehand and leave the room to take it.
If laptops are approved for the meeting for notes, by all means, use one. If you’re the only one with it open in front of you though, it will just look like you’re not paying attention and looking at something more interesting.
If you are the meeting organiser then ensure that breaks are scheduled into the agenda, especially for a long meeting. A general run of thumb is that breaks should be at least 15 minutes long. Meal breaks should be at least 30 minutes.
Sit still and listen
Sounds a bit childish but playing with paperwork or tapping a pen on the table can be disruptive. If you aren’t speaking ensure you are paying attention and listening to every point in case you have any questions.
Follow dress codes
Unless obvious, the organiser should advise if there is a dress code and it should be followed. In the UK, unless you work in insurance, the suit and tie are becoming less and less common. In Asia, it is still very much expected to be aware.
If in doubt, always dress to impress.
The agenda should always be set in advance by the meeting organiser. If you have an issue with the agenda or would like to see something added to it then this should also be advised well in advance of the meeting. Changing the agenda during a meeting is unfair to the other participants who may not have had time to prepare for the new topic.
Speak one at a time
Ensure that you have the floor before starting to speak. In other words, nothing gets achieved if everybody talks over each other or separate conversations are taking place at different ends of the table. Never get angry or emotional and patiently wait for your turn.
Main Dos and Don’ts
- DO arrive on time
- DO prepare carefully
- DO dress appropriately
- DON’T play with or look at your phone
- DON’T disengage, pay attention at all times
- DON’T get over emotional