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Business Meeting Etiquette

By: Jeff Durham - Updated: 2 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Business Meeting Etiquette Business

Etiquette in business can come in a variety of forms – be it a business lunch to your choice of attire at an awards ceremony but the most crucial area in which etiquette can mean the difference between a company gaining or losing thousands of pounds is in a meeting setting. There are different types of meetings. They can be both formal and informal and can be held with clients customers or fellow colleagues but the one thing they all have in common is that they usually result in success or failure. And, if you only get one area of etiquette correct in business, it’s important that it’s during a meeting situation.

Formal Meetings

Formal meetings can take many forms. There are board meetings, management meetings, team or departmental meetings and business negotiations and whilst they may differ in terms of their content, they’ll usually have a similar structure overall. Usually, they’ll have a chairperson (often referred to simply as ‘chair’ who will preside over the meeting. There will be minutes to attend to which will often include a record of who’s present and perhaps apologies for any absences. There will also be a set-out agenda which will include the topics to be discussed. If you are conducting a meeting which will include references to reports, statistics or any other information, you should make sure that everybody who is going to be attending the meeting each has a copy of all the necessary facts and figures which may be referred to at the meeting a good 3 or 4 days before it takes place, if possible, and everybody should take the trouble to familiarise themselves with all this paperwork prior to the meeting. Therefore, preparation is important.

Dress and Good Manners

You should dress appropriately for the meeting and be punctual. Make sure that you switch off your mobile phone and you might also find that you’re faced with an established, pre-determined seating arrangement so if you’re unsure about where to sit, ask – don’t just sit down anywhere. Acknowledge the chair and once discussions are under way, if there is no set speaking order, it’s good etiquette to allow the most senior members at the meeting to have their say first.

Listen attentively to what’s said and even if you don’t agree with something, you shouldn’t interrupt mid-speech but make a mental note of the issue (if note taking has been encouraged) and come back to that later when it’s your turn to speak, if appropriate. When you are invited to speak, you should usually address the chair unless those who have gone before you have done otherwise and take your cues from their speeches. i.e. If it’s necessary to condense your points because of time restrictions, make sure your comments are succinct but that you include all of your major points and have made sure that they are relevant to the matters at hand. It’s bad manners to deviate from the main purposes of the meeting as set out in the agenda so make sure you’re always ‘on topic’.

Informal Meetings

Informal meetings can consist of many styles and some are more informal than others. Often you will still have a ‘chair’ who will usually be the person who called the meeting but you’ll not necessarily have to follow the protocol of having minutes or a rigid, pre-determined fixed agenda. However, there will be a purpose as to why the meeting was called so it’s still important to be on time and to follow the same basic procedures as you would in a formal meeting in terms of letting more senior members dictate the flow of the meeting although often in informal meetings, there’s more of an opportunity to engage in discussions or open debate. It’s also good etiquette that if somebody cannot attend the meeting, they are still provided with all the relevant details as to what has been discussed at a later point.

Therefore, meetings can take on many guises but you need to show a level of professionalism whether they are held formally or informally. The key elements of etiquette to remember are to be there on time, dress appropriately, know when to speak and when to listen and be courteous and considerate to others. Remember one golden rule too and that is to keep your counsel about what has gone in any meeting and treat it as confidential. More people are guilty of disregarding business meeting etiquette after the meeting has taken place by gossiping to others about the meeting or divulging information that was supposed to be confidential. Therefore, make sure that you don’t fall into this trap as it will undo all the hard work and effort you put in at the meeting itself and this will undermine your reputation.

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