I felt led to discuss this topic as I have found that many of us are unaware of how to be effective participants in meetings, or we represent ourselves poorly. How you present yourself is crucial for your professional development and to be perceived positively by your peers and superiors.
Within work settings, meetings are a tool for companies to brainstorm, solve problems, give updates, make decisions, provide a sense of direction, encourage enthusiasm, and develop understanding. In general, they contain a specified purpose, use a communication delivery method, and usually take place in a controlled situation. If you’re invited to a meeting, the organizer is either expecting you to walk away with information that could affect your work or complete an assignment with a given deadline. You should be prepared in both cases.
Here are basic fundamentals of meeting etiquette to ensure you embody a professional demeanor that supports your career growth:
Be early, not on time
It’s great if you make it on time to work every day, however, you can’t drop the ball once you’re in the building. Arriving early to meetings shows that you are prepared to receive the information and that you manage your time well. If you’re attending a relatively small meeting or if you know you are guaranteed a seat, arrive 5-10 minutes early. Showing up earlier than this indicates that you don’t have enough work to do or that you don’t mind wasting time. If you’re attending a larger meeting (such as an all staff or state of the union meeting), arrive 10-15 minutes early. It’s important for you to secure a seat to avoid fumbling around for one right before the meeting starts. Arriving later than this makes you appear rushed and adds a hectic energy to the meeting.
Know your role
Read the meeting’s agenda beforehand to get an understanding of why you’re invited and how you’re supposed to participate. Are you reporting on an update or receiving impertinent information that could affect your department/job? Knowing this information ahead of time will inform you of what is expected of you from the facilitator. If you can’t figure it out, just ask, but don’t ask at the last minute.
Always, ALWAYS, bring a notebook
It’s imperative that you bring a notebook to every meeting you attend. Doesn’t matter if it’s big or small, 5 minutes or 5 hours, there may be key things you need to remember that pertain to the current or future state of your job. Don’t pride yourself on being able to remember specific details though you may remember the topic. Also, taking notes in meetings shows that you’re being attentive and proactive. Not doing so makes you appear unprepared and uninterested.
It’s one thing to physically show up to a meeting but it’s another to for your mind to be there. When you’re not intently present, it shows. The worse outcome is when someone else notices it. Be mindful of how you react to things. If you happen to be an expressive person (like I am), your face and posture will display exactly what you’re thinking. Unless you’re speaking, no one should be able to tell what you’re thinking. Make sure you watch your face and are fully aware of your posture.
Don’t email or text
It’s just plan rude. Unless you’re expected to take notes on a device, you just appear to be too consumed with your personal business to care about the contents of the meeting. Your safest bet is to leave your device at your desk (or wherever you safely store your personal belongings). Otherwise you risk inadvertently telling your colleagues and superiors that you don’t care about what’s going on. That can leave a bad taste in people’s mouths about you.
Reserve your snacking
It may seem harmless to bring a small snack to a meeting but unless this is a meeting where everyone is eating, it is extremely disruptive. Your food may be crunchy to the point where everyone can hear every time you chew, or it can smell, which may not sit well with the rest of the attendees. Furthermore, snacking in meetings where you’re the only one eating comes across as a bit selfish because you didn’t bring enough for everyone else! Stick to beverages such as water, tea, coffee, or anything else that won’t give off an aroma.
Speak up when appropriate
You’ve been invited to the meeting for a reason. If a topic arises that involves your department (and you’re the only representative or your superior isn’t there) or your work, chime in if you can provide clarity or value to the discussion. This is a great opportunity to show your expertise and get credit for the work you do. When you do speak up, ensure that you’re loud enough and put forth confidence in your tone.
Meetings are an integral part of how we do business in the workplace. Following meeting etiquette is an easy behavior we can adopt to stay sharp garner respect from our peers and superiors.
Have you experienced anyone displaying poor behavior in meetings? How did you feel about it? Comment and let’s discuss!