By Kerry Hallard, Managing Director of Buffalo Communications.
One might assume that the etiquette observed in meetings is standardised, unchanging throughout time; the rules of what to do and what not to do in a meeting are surely the same now as twenty years ago or in twenty years time.
This could not be more wrong. Web 2.0 and the advent of new technologies are changing the way people interact – even on a one-to-one level.
The way that people act in meetings has to convey all of the new and evolving etiquettes whilst still considering the way that meetings have always been conducted.
Of course traditional etiquette still has to be put in place. This must be established before a meeting has even started. It is vital to confirm with attendees a couple of days in advance.
One must also make sure that the meeting room / restaurant is both booked and fully prepared beforehand and that the agenda is sent out at least a day in advance.
Lacklustre preparation equates to poor etiquette. Having all of the logistics in place in advance is the foundation upon which good meeting etiquette is based. On the post- side of the meeting, sending the minutes within one day is the norm.
When it comes to the meeting itself the etiquette is in play from the moment that you walk in the door – which must certainly not be a minute after the agreed meeting time. Good meetings etiquette is like good life manners – being late is rude!
Firm handshakes, eye contact and voice projection are not just friendly posturing; they are the etiquette that sets the tone for the whole meeting. First impressions really do count. Adapting body language to mirror that of the other attendees is one way to engage with everyone else in the meeting.
These are the traditional ways of behaving in a meeting. However, new technologies have brought new challenges. Business people are loathe to put down their Blackberries but it is good manners to do so in a meeting.
Having a phone ring during a meeting is poor manners; answering it is simply unacceptable. If one is expecting an urgent personal call during a meeting, telling the other members of the meeting at the start is common practice.
One issue that we have faced with both Blackberries and laptops is typing during meetings. With a Blackberry, it may seem that someone is just texting friends, when in fact they are writing notes about the meeting.
Once again giving the other attendees notice that you are not doing personal activities is enough to ward off suspicions. Using a laptop is fine, but I’ve been in meetings where people have spent the whole time on Facebook, which is extremely discourteous.
In a meeting your every move will, whether consciously or subconsciously, be monitored by clients and prospects. Good presentation and good etiquette go hand in hand and first and foremost you need to present an image of yourself that reflects the image of the company.
Everything that you do before, during and after the meeting will reflect the image that you are painting of both yourself and your company.
Therefore etiquette in meetings is of the utmost importance – to get it wrong is to damage the reputation of the brand and your own reputation.
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