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Business Meeting Etiquette

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Business etiquette is essentially about building relationships with colleagues, clients or customers. In the business world, it is these people that can influence your success or failure. Etiquette, and in particular business etiquette, is simply a means of maximising your business potential by presenting yourself favourably. Business meetings are one arena in which poor etiquette can have negative effects. By improving your business meeting etiquette you automatically improve your chances of success. Comfort, trust, attentiveness and clear communication are examples of the positive results of demonstrating good etiquette. The article will focus on a few key examples of business meeting etiquette for both formal and informal business meetings. Although these are meant as guides to etiquette in the UK they are very much applicable to other nations too. Informal Meetings Informal meetings are generally more relaxed affairs and may not necessarily take place in the office or meeting room. Even so a sense of professionalism and good business etiquette are still required. There are 7 points to consider with informal meetings:

  • Business etiquette demands that the person calling the meeting (henceforth the chair’) should be the most senior or the one with the most direct or urgent interest in the topic at hand.
  • The chair should decide the time, place and agenda. These details should be confirmed with everyone to make sure all are in agreement and no inconvenience is caused.
  • The chair must make the purpose of the meeting clear to the attendees, how long it will last and what is expected of them, i.e. particular information or preparation of documents. Failing to relay the proper information is bad business etiquette as it could cause embarrassment.
  • Punctuality is a must. Keeping people waiting is considered the height of poor etiquette as it abuses their time.
  • The chair should strive to ensure the meeting stays within a set framework or agenda so that it is kept as short and effective as possible. He/she must keep circular disagreements and the like to a minimum.
  • The chair should (pre-)appoint someone to record the proceedings; documenting major decisions or action points. This can later be distributed to the attendees for reference.
  • If the results of the meeting have an effect on others who were not present it is considered proper business etiquette to inform them. Formal Meetings
  • The business etiquette of formal meetings such as departmental meetings, management meetings, board meetings, negotiations and the like can be puzzling. Such meetings usually have a set format. For example, the chair may always be the same person, minutes, agendas or reports may be pre-distributed or voting may take place. Here are 10 business etiquette guidelines that are applicable to any formal meeting:

  • Prepare well for the meeting as your contribution may be integral to the proceedings. If you are using statistics, reports or any other information make sure it has been handed out at least three days prior to the meeting.
  • Dress well and arrive in good time. Your professionalism is linked to both.
  • Always remember to switch off a mobile phone.
  • If there is an established seating pattern, accept it. If you are unsure, ask.
  • Acknowledge any introductions or opening remarks with a brief recognition of the chair and other participants.
  • When discussions are under way it is good business etiquette to allow more senior figures to contribute first.
  • Never interrupt anyone – even if you disagree strongly. Note what has been said and return to it later with the chair’s permission.
  • When speaking, be brief and ensure what you say is relevant.
  • Always address the chair unless it is clear that others are not doing so.
  • It is a serious breach of business etiquette to divulge information to others about a meeting. What has been discussed should be considered as confidential.
  • The underlying principles of the all the above business meeting etiquette pointers are good manners, courtesy and consideration. If these principles are adhered to the chances of offense and misunderstandings are greatly reduced. Neil Payne is Director of Kwintessential, a cross cultural communications consultancy.

    Business Meeting Etiquette
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    • http://everydayentrepreneurship.com Everyday Entrepreneurship

      I enjoyed your blog and think you make some great points, especially about using meetings to foster relationships. Too often meetings can be robotic or perfunctory in nature. It is a great time to cultivate stronger working relationships since the entire Board will get together on such an infrequent basis.

      I am personally conducting an ongoing interview with entrepreneurs and investors about their opinions regarding Board meeting etiquette and have been posting them on my blog. What you’ve written about is fairly consistent with some of those blog entries, particularly regarding the role of a Chairman and meeting length. The Chairman must conduct the meeting. Non-Board members may be allowed to attend Board meetings as long as their opinions will make a valuable contribution to the meeting.

      Keep up the good work!
      Jacob

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