Rules seem to change depending on context and company so it can sometimes become consuming to truly understand what is appropriate and what isn’t. While each organization may have their own idea of professionalism, there are some universal meeting etiquette rules that you can follow so that you always feel confident about the way that you conduct yourself at work. Business meeting etiquette is important to be familiar with, including active listening, speaking loudly enough, and being aware of body language. 

Fellow has put together some meeting etiquette rules so that you can feel confident in every meeting.  First, we’ll take you through what business meeting etiquette is, why it’s important in business, and some universal rules to remember. Check them out below: 

What is meeting etiquette? 

Business meeting etiquette is a standard of behaviour that is expected while you are in the office or in meetings. Maintaining a high standard of professionalism and respect is the essence of business etiquette and meeting etiquette. Behaviours such as being on time, being off your phone for the entirety of the meeting, providing a detailed meeting agenda, making introductions and listening without interruption are all-important meeting etiquette rules. While these kinds of rules might not be necessary for more informal discussions, it’s good to keep this set of business manners in mind for more formal interactions, especially when you don’t know everyone in the room. 

Why is meeting etiquette important in business? 

Meeting etiquette is really important for several reasons. First, it improves communication between you and your team if everyone is adhering and respecting certain manners at work and in meetings. This standard of communication encourages an environment where every person respects one another, everyone is heard and everyone feels comfortable sharing their thoughts. Meeting etiquette also promotes higher productivity because central to these etiquette rules are coming prepared, being organized, listening, and taking turns speaking. This means the time is being optimized the most effectively. Lastly, it improves relationships within the working group because when people feel respected, it also enhances trust which strengthens those business relationships. 

8 Meeting Etiquette Rules to Remember

1 Be punctual 

Being punctual is one of the most important business etiquette rules. It shows professionalism, respect and proper preparation. It’s common courtesy for the rest of the group to get to the meeting on time so that you’re respectful of other people’s time. When leaders tolerate lateness, it means that people may begin to take advantage of that. Most people will not and should not wait for you to arrive at the meeting if you’re late. Simply put, it looks bad! It’s unprofessional so it’s best to be in the meeting in advance so that you have some time to sit down and prepare for the discussion ahead

2 Come prepared 

Make sure that your meeting agenda is sent far in advance, with time for the group to collaborate and make suggestions for items to add. If there is any kind of documentation that was sent with the meeting invite, be sure to brief yourself and familiarize yourself with the content so that you can actively participate. Make sure to write down any kinds of questions you have or topics you’d like to bring up before the meeting happens so that these things don’t slip your mind. If you’ve been asked to prepare anything ahead, make sure that it is accounted for so that you can feel confident and prepared

3 Speak clearly 

It’s so important to speak loudly enough and clearly enough so that everyone can understand. Millennials and Gen Z tend to speak really quickly, so if this is you, slow it down to a pace that is easily understood by all. Speaking loudly and clearly portrays confidence and professionalism. If you’re a soft speaker, be sure to work on this point as quiet speakers often struggle to come off as assertive and sure of themselves (even when they are!). Speaking clearly is going to contribute to the meeting’s productivity because everything will be well understood and nothing will have to be repeated. 

4 Actively listen and participate 

Find a good balance between actively listening and also participating in the discussions taking place. A good rule of thumb is to listen at least twice as much as you speak, especially when there are a lot of people in the room. A few ways to show the speaker that you are actively listening is through non-verbal communication, such as nodding your head, writing notes, asking questions or contributing comments. When you engage in these actions, it’s actually going to help keep your attention so that you can listen more effectively and you’ll get more out of the meeting. Active listening means that when it’s your turn to participate you won’t repeat what has already been discussed and you can bring fresh insights, opinions and contributions to the table. 

5 Give others the opportunity to speak 

No one enjoys a meeting where one or two people dominate the entire conversation- in that case, what’s the point in it being a team meeting? Give others the opportunity to speak and if you’ve just spoken, take some time to actively listen to others. Be patient in waiting for your turn to speak and look for the right cues to contribute to the conversation. A good time to contribute is when you’re a subject matter expert on the topic when you have updates and when the conversation trails off. Write down any points that come up while others are speaking so that you can revisit your list and determine if they’re worth bringing up. 

6 Follow the agenda 

Do not stray from the meeting agenda. Staying on topic is good meeting etiquette because it respects the time and effort that has gone into organizing the meeting and the topics that will be covered. Now is not the time to bring up other things that are not listed to speak about. This is going to save time and make your discussion more productive. If you notice you’ve drifted off-topic, take note of what it was and bring the conversation back to its main purpose. You can always revisit these side discussions at a later time with the people who are directly involved. 

Pro tip

Use a meeting management tool like Fellow to create a purposeful agenda to stay on top of talking points and make your discussion more productive.

7 Ask clarifying questions 

Asking clarifying questions is good business meeting etiquette because it shows that you are listening and that you want to properly understand what has been discussed. That said, make sure that you are asking questions at the appropriate time. When your question is relevant to what is being discussed, before the speaker or facilitator moves on to the next topic, that’s the right time to ask. A good facilitator will ask if there are any questions periodically but if that’s not the case, don’t be shy to clarify what’s been discussed because you will get a lot more out of the meeting when you fully understand what is being spoken about. Avoid asking all of your questions at the end of the meeting because this can be time-consuming, especially if you’ve got a list. Think about speaking to the appropriate person privately or shooting them an email. 

8 Be attentive to your body language 

It’s important to be self-aware of your own habits and body language during meetings. It’s natural to become restless or bored, especially during long meetings. That said, it’s important to avoid things such as tapping or clicking your pen, fidgeting with your clothes, jewelry, or notebook, swiveling your chair or playing with different heights, tapping your feet, rustling papers, making quiet noises or humming, and last but not least, do NOT pull out your cell phone. Turn off or silence your device and put it away somewhere that it’s no longer visible, such as in your purse, briefcase, or jacket pocket. If you want to bring your laptop along, ask the facilitator or meeting organizer beforehand if it’s appropriate. While you may think these actions are harmless, they are often seen as rude and disrespectful. A good way to keep your focus is to write notes, actively write down questions that you would like to ask and to participate in the meeting. 

Parting advice 

It can be tough to understand what’s appropriate and what’s not during meetings because company cultures differ so much. That said, being respectful and punctual are universal business etiquette rules that should always be followed. Meeting etiquette rules hold you to a high standard of behaving appropriately and in a way that is also matched by your team and colleagues. Remember to always be early or on time, to come prepared and to speak loudly and clearly enough. Actively listen more than you participate so that you give everyone the chance to speak and do not deviate or stray from the meeting agenda- you can bring up any side conversations at a later time. Ask some clarifying questions to ensure you’ve understood the full context and be aware of your own body language and the way you are conducting yourself during the meeting. 

We hope that this article has been helpful in laying down some universal meeting etiquette rules. If you found it helpful, be sure to share it with a friend or a colleague. Until next time, it was great to see you again!