Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Beginner's guide to meeting etiquette

Ah! Meetings. Whether we love them or hate them, we all have to attend them. So why do so many people get it so wrong? 

A tweet from Kirstie Magowan, which in turn referenced an article written a year ago by Greg Savage called  No, you are not ‘running late’, you are rude and selfish, got me thinking about how few people understand or consider meeting etiquette.  Having to then cancel a meeting with somebody today, I thought I would share my thoughts with the hope of gathering your feedback and compiling a definitive set of meeting etiquette rules.

In no particular order:

  • Don’t be late.  If you have accepted a meeting request for a certain time, then it is expected that you will be there at that time. The other attendees of meetings have made the effort to get there at the agreed time, so why shouldn’t you?
  • Don’t over commit.  If you are planning to be in another meeting, another location or believe that something will delay you getting to a meeting on time, suggest a different time. If that isn’t possible, then set expectations that you may be a few minutes late. People would rather know beforehand, instead of hanging around wondering where you are.
  • Be prepared.  If the meeting invitation asked you to have read something, or brought something, do it. Turning up to a meeting to discuss an item and reading it during the meeting is a waste of everybody's time.
  • Turn off electronic devices.  Unless you have a particular reason (note taking, expecting an update on a major issue, etc.) turn off your phone, tablet or laptop. Sitting in a meeting playing with your phone, or typing (click, click, click) on a laptop to catch up on emails is rude. It demonstrates a lack of professionalism and creates the impression that this meeting is not important to you.
  • Don’t talk over other people.  Meetings should not be a shouting match where people are being ignored or shouted down, but a place where discussions are held in a mature manner, and decisions reached.
  • Have an agenda.  If you can’t write down the purpose of the meeting and what you expect to achieve from the meeting, then what is the point of having it?
  • Don’t leave early. This is generally done by those individuals who turn up late.  You aren’t important enough to warrant them arriving on time and spending the requested time with you, obviously.  These people are the ones who live for back to back meetings as it makes them feel important. If they do it more than once, stop inviting them. Ask someone else from their team to attend and if they can’t make decisions, they can certainly take actions to get the required information together.
  • If you have said you will be there, be there.  Unless you have died on the morning of the meeting, there is no reason for you to not attend a meeting to which you have been invited, and you have accepted. If you really can’t make it, send somebody to represent you. There is almost nothing worse than driving for several hours to go to a meeting only to find out that nobody else turned up.
  • Be considerate.  I could have started with this one, as it sums up the others, but I think it needs saying separately and here.  If you can’t adhere to the points above, then you are inconsiderate and rude.  Don’t be surprised if people stop talking to you.

What have I missed out? What should be included? Let me know your thoughts and let’s see if we can change the world, bit by bit.

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