Recently I attended a large corporate meeting that lasted nearly two hours. During that time, attendees came in late and left early, and some spent half the time on their iPhone. So frustrating! We could’ve accomplished just as much in half the time if everyone was on their game. With the incessant number of weekly staff meetings, client sit-downs, brainstorming sessions, and committee get-togethers, it’s no surprise that participants can barely pay attention. But working collaboratively on a project or to develop new strategies can result in innovative ideas. It’s time to refresh ourselves on meeting etiquette—and keep that group dynamic on track!
Be on time. Better yet, be early. Pour a cup of coffee or grab a bottle of water before the meeting begins. Allow yourself a few extra minutes to pick a seat and arrange your notes. Rustling papers and arranging yourself at the table can distract other attendees once the meeting has already begun.
Come prepared. Bring a copy of the agenda and any pertinent notes. Be aware of any e-mails exchanged or previous meetings held about the topic. If you’re concerned that you aren’t fully up to speed, track down someone who is and gather details prior to the start of the session.
Turn off your phone. Checking e-mail, messaging, or taking phone calls during a meeting is not only distracting, but it’s also disrespectful to the host. Just before the meeting begins, put your phone on silent so that you can focus on the meeting. One caveat: You can leave it on if there’s a true emergency and you’re awaiting a crucial call; however, at the beginning of the meeting, apologize ahead of time and let everyone know that if the critical call comes in, you’ll momentarily excuse yourself.
Participate. Prior to the meeting, jot down a few talking points. When you have an idea, jump in! Make yourself stand out of the crowd by engaging in a lively discussion and tossing out creative solutions.
Focus on follow-up. Often, once everyone steps out of the boardroom, the best ideas are quickly forgotten as everyone shifts back to their e-mails, voice-mails, or next meeting. As the session winds down, make sure that participants are clear on the subsequent steps or action items. Suggest a follow-up date or offer to circulate notes with assignments clearly identified. Impress your boss by volunteering to tackle a few tasks—but then be sure to follow up in a timely manner.