Become the Extraordinary: Set the Standard for Professional Etiquette at Meetings

Posted On December 28, 2017

While traveling I fill my time with reading a wide variety of books, magazines and newspapers. I’ve become startled by the number of articles and commentaries on the lack of politeness and etiquette that seems to be becoming part of our every-day lives. Think about it.  What becomes acceptable in society then becomes the norm.

Politeness (civility, courtesy, respect) is defined as behaving in a socially acceptable way with proper manners and etiquette. As an example, standing up to greet a guest as they enter a room or keeping your elbows off the dinner table while eating.

One story about people behavior, that I came across, really got me thinking about today’s cultural thinking towards etiquette.A woman working retail during a holiday season shared the following:“I work in part-time retail, so I encounter many different people. Nowadays it seems people are trying to beat you into the parking lots, the parking spaces, in the mall doors, so they can get there ahead of you. Not only do they not hold the door open for a person coming in behind them, you never hear a ‘thank you,’ or a ‘have a nice day’ from a customer. Life has just gotten so fast paced, there seems to be no room for manners anymore.”Can you relate?  I think we all can.

Let’s now switch tracks.  Have you ever observed poor or unacceptable behavior/etiquette during a business meeting?  I can honestly say I have.  Many don’t realize that their professional etiquette at a business meeting is being evaluated by all in attendance. Business meetings are one arena in which poor etiquette can have long tern negative effects on ones’ future success.  When one improves their business meeting etiquette, one automatically improves their professional image and behaviors in all other areas of their lives. 
In “The Essentials of Business Etiquette” by Barbara Pachter, there are recommendations on how to improve one’s business etiquette to build relationships with customers, clients, peers, co-workers and colleagues.  In the business world, it is these people that can influence your success or failure.

Rules to apply when it comes to business meeting etiquette:

Circulate among the other participants before the meeting begins. When the opportunity becomes available, introduce yourself to others. If there are new faces attending the meeting, assist making introductions, starting with the highest-ranking person in the room.

Choose your words wisely.  When speaking, commenting, sharing information, say what you need to say in as few words as necessary. Avoid covering unnecessary information and idle chatter.  Don’t repeat yourself.
Extend a hand in greeting.  In doing so you make yourself approachable.  If you are the host of the meeting, or the senior person attending, you should extend your hand first (regardless of gender).

Know the dress code and present yourself accordingly.  Attire can either boost a person’s professional reputation or lessen from his or her credibility. Be sure that clothing chosen falls within meeting/company guidelines.

When being introduced, always stand.  Standing helps establish your presence to either and individual or a group.  Standing prevents others from ignoring you.

Do your homework.  Come prepared. Know what the premise of the meeting is and what your part in the meeting will be.  Be informed will help you ask or answers questions.

Be punctual.  Don’t run late.  Show respect for the host and other people’s time.

Sit professionally.  Adjust your chair setting (if the chair adjusts) so that you are at an equal height with everyone else at the table. Avoid crossing legs because it can be distracting or even too sexy for a professional setting.

Make your comments meaningful.  Provide a meaningful/beneficial comment at the beginning of the meeting so people know you are there.  Speak at the proper volume level, with good articulation, pitch, voice inflection and speed of wording.

Know the unwritten speaking rules.  It is not professional or polite to interrupt others while they are speaking, however, you might have to interrupt at some point in order to be heard or to contribute.  Know the unwritten speaking rules/policies prior to attending to the meeting.

What about eating?  Unless it is a breakfast, lunch or dinner meeting, avoid bring food to the table.  Opening food/snack wrappers can create disruptive noises.  Food can also give off smells.  Stay to coffee, tea, soft-drinks and water (and remember not to chew your ice).
Keep cell phone out of sight.  Do not place cell phone on the meeting table.  It can be distracting if it starts buzzing, lighting up or making any sort of sound.  Always put on mute and/or vibrate. If you must absolutely take a call, be respectful to others and leave the room quietly (also return quietly, opening and closing the meeting room door).

Ask relevant questions.  If you have questions, ask them at the appropriate time (don’t store them up until the end of the meeting, unless this is requested by the meeting host) and finally, if you are the host of the meeting-

Have a structured agenda to follow.  Begin on time, end on time, stay on point (distribute an agenda and meeting focus points). If you digress, steer back to the right direction.  End by reviewing main points, set goals and measurements for next meeting.  Follow-up.
Here’s a challenge: Set the standard for meeting etiquette at your workplace and see if people don’t begin to relate to you differently.  No doubt they will.

Adapted from “The Essentials of Business Etiquette” by Barbara Pachter

About Writer

Dr. Marc Clark

Dr. Marc Clark is a renowned personality in both Management and Hospitality sectors. He is President & CEO of SmartBizzOnline.com, Published author, international speaker, with GATE College as a Senior Advisor since 2008. He holds the hospitality designations of CHA, CHRE, CHE, and CHO. (mdclark@kih.net, drclrak@gate.edu.np, www.smartbizzonline.com)