Ever been to a meeting and left with empty thoughts about what it was all about?
It would only be right to say businesses run on meetings, and those 30 minutes (or more) will decide whether you make it or break it with your clients, colleagues, or bosses.
In this blog, we will discuss some business meeting etiquette rules you should follow throughout your professional life.
Whether you are participating in a virtual or in-person meeting, following these business meeting rules can ensure smooth conversations, efficient time utilization, and long-lasting business relations.
Before we begin:
What is business meeting etiquette?
Business meeting etiquette is the social norms and customs that guide behavior in a professional setting during business meetings.
It includes a set of unwritten rules and expectations for how you should behave, communicate, and interact with each other.
Proper meeting etiquette can create a positive and productive atmosphere, foster mutual respect, and ensure effective and efficient meetings.
Why is meeting etiquette important in business?
According to Gartner, a working professional spends an average of 8 hours weekly in meetings alone. So, how do you ensure that this time is converted into actual investments for the business?
By understanding and following proper meeting etiquette rules. It can help
- Maintain professionalism: Adhering to meeting etiquette shows that you are a professional who takes work seriously and respects the time and opinions of others.
- Improve communication: Following proper etiquette helps ensure everyone in the meeting can communicate effectively and understand each other.
- Build trust: When meetings are conducted respectfully, it builds trust between participants and can lead to more productive and successful outcomes.
- Increase efficiency: Meetings can be conducted more efficiently, with clear agendas and expectations, reducing the time spent on unnecessary discussions.
- Create a positive environment: Proper etiquette can help to create a positive atmosphere in the meeting, reducing conflict and encouraging collaboration.
That said, it is more than just following a few arbitrary rules; it is a way to set expectations, foster respect, and ensure that all the participants in a meeting are on the same page.
Now that you know the importance of having and following business meeting rules, here are 17 business meeting etiquette rules you can start following right away.
Top 17 business meeting etiquette rules
Professional meeting etiquette isn’t something you need to follow only during the meeting. The best meeting etiquette starts way before the meeting happens.
Here are some meeting etiquette rules you must follow before, during, and after the meeting:
Etiquette rules to follow before the meeting
1. Double-check the calendar
Every time you send an invite or accept an invitation, double-check the calendar and block the time, leaving a buffer of at least 15 minutes before and after the meeting. This also gives you enough breathing space if the meeting gets extended.
To make calendar blocking easier, use calendar management tools like Google Calendar or Calendly to find and share a mutually convenient time.
In case you’re hosting the meeting, choosing the best time that works for everyone can be challenging, especially if you have participants from different time zones or conflicting schedules.
Here are three tips that can help you find a time that works for everyone:
- Determine the time zone: Make sure you know the time zone of each participant and plan accordingly. You can use an online time zone converter to help you.
- Consider everyone's schedule: Ask participants to provide their availability and look for commonly available times.
- Be flexible: Be open to finding a time that works best for everyone, even if it means rescheduling the meeting a few times.
Use these tips to find a time that works for everyone and ensure that your meeting is well-attended and productive.
2. Define or understand the purpose of the meeting
Every meeting has one common demand from its participants—time.
Before signing in or scheduling a meeting, get clarity on the goals of the meeting, and see if it makes sense to connect asynchronously or synchronously.
Knowing the purpose of the meeting helps you understand what decisions need to be made and what information needs to be discussed. This clarity of goals ensures that the meeting stays focused and on track.
It also helps you prioritize tasks, prepare, participate, and follow up effectively in the meeting.
3. Know your fellow attendees
This rule applies usually if you’re the meeting host.
Despite all intentions, not all attendees find a meeting necessary to move things forward; they would rather prefer to invest that time in doing work that adds value.
So how do you identify whom you want to invite? Follow these tips to shortlist your invitees -
- Relevant stakeholders: Invite people with a vested interest in the outcome of the meeting and can provide valuable input or make decisions.
- Decision-makers: If decisions need to be made, only invite those with authority.
- Key contributors: If the meeting requires specific expertise or knowledge, invite people who can contribute in those areas.
- Facilitators: Consider inviting a facilitator if the meeting is complex or requires a neutral third party to keep things organized and on track.
- Optional attendees: If there are people who may not be directly involved in the meeting but could benefit from being in the loop, consider inviting them as well.
When deciding whom to invite, consider the purpose of the meeting and the roles of each participant.
4. Define and follow an agenda
A clear agenda helps keep the meeting focused and on track, reducing the risk of going off-topic and wasting time on unrelated discussions.
It also ensures that everyone knows what will be discussed and what is expected of them, leading to increased clarity and a better understanding of the goals of the meeting.
If you’re the host, send the agenda at least 2 hours before the meeting. It also gives the invitees an easy way out if the meeting topic isn’t of their concern.
Want more guidance on how to create an agenda? – Read this!
5. Test your technology setup, surroundings, and equipment
Remember when you have had to repeat sentences over broken internet or uncontrollable background noises?
Technical issues during a meeting can be disruptive and make you appear unprofessional. Avoid this by testing ahead of time.
To avoid embarrassment and further frustration, here’s a checklist you can keep to ensure everything is in order before going into a meeting:
- Technology setup: Check your computer, camera, microphone, and internet connection to ensure they are working properly.
- Surroundings: Your background or the meeting room should be less distracting and neat. If it’s video conferencing, make sure the lighting is appropriate.
- Equipment: Make sure that you have all necessary equipment (pen, paper, chargers, etc.) and any relevant documents handy.
- Agenda and materials: Review the meeting agenda and other materials you need to present or discuss.
- Time: Check the time zone difference, if any, and ensure you have the correct time for the meeting.
- Preparation: Review any notes or preparations you have made, and ensure you are ready to engage in the meeting.
By checking these items, you can ensure your meeting runs smoothly and creates the best possible impression.
As this sums up the set of rules you need to follow before going into a meeting, let’s next discuss the meeting etiquette tips you need to follow during the meeting.
Etiquette rules to follow during the meeting
6. Be on time
Punctuality—the simplest and the easiest way to impress anyone. It shows you are organized, responsible, and respectful of time, which can help make a good impression on others.
Make sure you show up on time; better 2 minutes before the meeting begins.
Arriving late to a meeting can disrupt the flow and show a lack of respect for the attendees and their time.
7. Dress appropriately
Your attire can impact how others perceive you and your level of professionalism.
Consider the organization's culture and the type of meeting you will attend when choosing your attire. You don’t wear a tuxedo for a summer picnic; it’s as simple as that.
8. Turn off electronic devices
What if someone’s phone goes buzzing while you’re at the core of your presentation?
Ringing phones, buzzing notifications, and other sounds from electronic devices can disrupt the flow of the meeting and distract others. Turn them off to prevent such disruptions.
9. Be an active listener
Pay attention and engage in the meeting rather than multitasking or thinking about other things.
Being an active listener can ensure effective communication that can help make more informed decisions, identify and resolve misunderstandings and improve collaboration.
10. Be respectful
Make sure you create a respectful and productive environment for the meeting. A respectful environment can lead to more open and effective communication, as participants feel comfortable sharing their opinions and ideas.
To create a respectful and inclusive environment, you may use the following tips -
- Be courteous: Use polite language, avoid negative or critical comments, and avoid engaging in behavior that can be perceived as disruptive or disrespectful.
- Be open-minded: Consider others' opinions and be open to different perspectives. Avoid being defensive or closed-minded, and amicably find solutions.
- Be professional: Maintain a professional demeanor and avoid using informal language or discussing inappropriate or sensitive topics.
- Mute and unmute on time: Keep yourself mute when others talk. This helps to prevent distractions and ensures that the focus is completely on the speaker or presenter.
- Listen actively: Be attentive to what others say and avoid interruptions. Ask clarifying questions and make an effort to understand others' perspectives.
11. Follow the agenda
Have you been to a meeting where you started with a topic, went in a different direction, and ended up with zero output?
A well-structured agenda can help ensure the meeting is productive and achieves its goals and objectives. But having an agenda itself isn’t enough. You need to follow it diligently.
So that you can make sure all relevant topics are covered in a systematic and organized manner, reducing the time required for the meeting and increasing its efficiency.
12. Respect confidentiality
Do you discuss or share confidential information in meetings?
If so, follow these five simple steps to maintain your meeting confidentiality:
- Clearly define the purpose of the meeting: Before the meeting, clarify the purpose and understand what information will be discussed with the attendees.
- Limit attendance: Only invite those who need to be present for the meeting.
- Use secure communication methods: Use secure communication methods such as encrypted email or video conferencing.
- Establish clear guidelines: Establish confidentiality rules and guidelines for the meeting, including what information can and cannot be shared outside the meeting.
- Document the meeting: Consider documenting the meeting in a way that protects the confidentiality of the information discussed.
A meeting doesn’t end once everyone says bye. There’s more to it, and following etiquette rules will help ensure you and your fellow participants have the best experience with the meeting.
Etiquette to follow after the meeting
13. Say thank you
Immediately after the meeting, send a thank you note to all the participants (if you’re the host) for their active participation and valuable contribution.
This can foster positive relationships and encourage future collaboration.
14. Evaluate the meeting
Take some time to reflect on the meeting and evaluate its effectiveness. Consider what went well and what could have been done better. You can use this information to improve future meetings.
15. Send meeting notes
Within a reasonable time after the meeting, send a follow-up email with the notes to all participants, summarizing the main points discussed and decisions made.
You can use an AI note-taking app like Fireflies, which automatically sends meeting recaps to participants, team members, or everyone, based on your preference. Sharing meeting notes helps create a single source of truth and ensures everyone is on the same page.
16. Execute the decisions
If decisions were made during the meeting, be sure to act on them on time. Follow up on any tasks or assignments that were agreed upon, and keep participants informed of progress.
17. Close the loop and archive relevant materials
If any issues or questions are left resolved during the meeting, close the loop by following up with the relevant parties. Archive the materials shared during the meeting for future reference.
So far, we’ve discussed all the golden rules of general meeting etiquette, but this article would be incomplete if you don’t know its do’s and don’ts.
The do’s and don’ts of meeting etiquette
- Send a meeting reminder half an hour prior and one day before to all the participants.
- Mute yourself when other participants are talking.
- Book your meeting space ahead of time. Also, ensure all the participants are familiar with the platform and send the meeting link at least an hour before the meeting.
- Take permission from all the attendees before recording the meeting. Here is a guide on call recording laws.
- Wrap up the meeting by summarizing key takeaways and the next steps.
- Do not schedule a meeting for a time more than you need. If something can be discussed in 20 minutes, block the participants' time only for that.
- Do not check your phone or other gadgets during the meeting.
- Do not monopolize the conversation. Avoid dominating the conversation or interrupting others.
- Do not deviate from the agenda. Avoid changing the agenda or introducing new topics without the participants' agreement, as this can be disruptive and disrespectful.
Meeting etiquette involves being prepared and organized, respecting the speaker, focusing on the topic, and engaging in the conversation.
By following the meeting etiquette rules discussed here, you can build your reputation as a professional, demonstrate respect, and make a positive impression on your colleagues and superiors.
Remember, a well-run meeting will go a long way in helping you reach your goals faster, build stronger relationships, and ultimately contribute to your success.