Basic Business Etiquette At A Meeting

Reputations in business are built or demolished based on how well a person conducts himself during a meeting. Although the culture of an organization contributes to the expectations of each meeting participant, savvy businesspeople will carefully follow a handful of etiquette guidelines to make sure that every meeting is a successful one.

Be Timely

Show up on time and do not leave early. Few habits irritate co-workers like people who are chronically late for meetings or frequently leave early. Although scheduling conflicts are a fact of life, a schedule that is too packed too often is an indicator of poor time-management or prioritization skills, and if given the chance people will draw negative conclusions before they consider positive ones.
Likewise, do not skip meetings. People all have moments when the car won't start of a child is ill, but people who make a habit of missing meetings they committed to attend will not earn the respect of co-workers or superiors.

Be Prepared

It is bad form to show up for a meeting for which you are completely unprepared. Bring any materials that were sent in advance, like agendas and handouts. Review your files on the subject, if you have them, to make sure you are up-to-speed on the subject of the meeting. Do any background research you need, and check with the meeting organizer to see if you have any "homework" due during the meeting.

Pay Attention

Do not be "that guy"--the one who spends a meeting on his laptop, working on other projects, or who gets up every five minutes to take a cell call in the hallway. If the meeting is important enough to attend physically, then it is important enough to attend mentally, too. Avoid one-off sidebar conversations with other participants, especially about unrelated subjects.

Participate Effectively

Stick to the agenda--avoid raising issues that are unrelated to the subject at hand. Resist the urge to hijack the meeting by dominating the conversation or trying to seize control of the agenda from the meeting organizer. Conversely, do not try to blend into the shadows without saying a word. Contribute to the success of the meeting by offering insights when appropriate without feeling the need to comment on everything that gets discussed.

Be Accountable

Accept responsibility for any post-meeting tasks; do not just raise issues that others must solve, but take the initiative for solving problems, particularly in a team context. If you are responsible for problems, own up to them and volunteer to fix them without trying to find blame or creating an excuse. People will forgive mistakes or missed deadlines much more readily if the responsible party owns up to it and tries to make it better.

Be Social

Get to know the other participants, if any are unfamiliar to you. Shake hands, smile and trade business cards. Learn who the key members of the meeting group are, and begin building professional relationships with other attendees. This is especially valuable for entrepreneurs or small-business owners who may attend meetings with clients or networking groups--being social today may mean additional business tomorrow.


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