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Proper Meeting Etiquette

June 28, 2016

Knowing how to rock at meetings is the number one thing that can help you in your career.

I spent the first year at my new job just being present at meetings while trying to have a good time and hangout with my coworkers. If I wasn’t doing that, I was trying to get by without saying something stupid or seeming over-confident that I contributed too much.

I was still in college mode.

However, what I didn’t realize is that meetings are a great, if not the best, way to present yourself well to your peers, your managers, and other employees from other departments.

In the same way, having the mindset that I did can hurt how people in the company view you. I cringe that I wasted my first year doing this.

Whether you are running the meeting or an attendee, here are some simple meeting etiquette tips to set you up for success.

The best meetings are those that are well thought out ahead of time and are organized.

If you don’t think out the agenda of the meeting ahead of time, you will appear unorganized and unprofessional. Long gone are the college days where you can show up with a broad idea of what you want to accomplish and expect it to get done.

Your agenda should include everything from how much time you should spend on each topic as well as goals for the meeting and the purpose for gathering.

Lori from Cigna says, “Have an agenda and stick to it.” If you are not calling the meeting but rather an attendee, she suggests that you should know what is on the agenda and be able to contribute information that relates to the topics you are familiar with." Full Quote

One of my previous managers once told me that for larger meetings with over three attendees, she usually would spend half of the scheduled meeting time planning how the meeting would go. So if the meeting was 1 hour long, she spent at least 20-30 minutes preparing and thinking through the goals and agenda of the meeting.

Stephanie from AT&T also adds, “Running successful meetings and projects is all about organization, partnering, consistency and goal setting.  I have found a lot of success (especially when working with a new team who is unfamiliar with me) in being very transparent with what my specific goals are (both for individual meetings and the project as a whole), setting clear expectations for stakeholders and then driving towards the common goals.  People like to know what they can expect and then having a voice when it directly impacts them.” Full Quote

Appreciate the attendee’s time

The best piece of advice I ever received was to look at the list of meeting attendees and assign a dollar amount to that meeting time. If someone makes $85,000 per year, we can assume they are making roughly $40.00 an hour. With multiple attendees at each meeting, the “cost” of the meeting sure does add up quickly!

Now, this shouldn’t scare you, but make you appreciate the meeting attendee’s time and think twice before you schedule unnecessary meetings.

Start the meeting promptly and don’t allow people to sit around and chitchat for 5 minutes. If possible, plan your meeting to end 10 minutes early. People will appreciate the few free minutes they have before their next meeting.

Only invite the necessary attendees

By inviting everyone and their mom to a meeting, you are more than likely wasting a few people’s time and risking the potential for the meeting to get off-topic pretty quickly.

Assigning a role and reason for each attendee ahead of time can help you figure out whom you should and shouldn’t invite. Write down their name and a reason they would be invited to the meeting next to their name.

Some people may not have a role in the meeting, but may be invited just to stay informed. If this is the case, you can ask them ahead of time if they want to attend the meeting. Briefly explain to them what the meeting is about. If they choose not to attend, you can ask if they are interested in seeing the notes from the meeting afterwards.

Lori from Cigna says, “Ensure that you invite the right people to attend. This means that anyone that would have a vested interest in the work/project that is being discussed. Typically the biggest pet peeve about a meeting is when people feel like it is wasting their time. Time is a precious commodity and people want to feel like they are investing it in something that will bring them value.” Full Quote

Don’t schedule hour-long meetings unless you absolutely have too

A lot of companies use shared calendars to book meetings with one another. The default on many of these calendars is 30 or 60 minutes increments. Many people therefore book their meeting for 30 or 60 minutes, but rarely do you need a full hour for a meeting.

Plan out your meeting first and then schedule based on how much time you think you actually need. This will help keep you accountable in the meeting and people are more likely to attend.

Wrap up the meeting well

Allow a few minutes at the end to summarize any action items that need to be revisited and confirm any tasks that were assigned to people during the meeting.

“Jeff, you will get the financial report back to us by Wednesday so we can move forward from there?” Allow Jeff to confirm that is what he agreed to and move on. 

Finally, ask your boss or mentor for help

Courtney from ADP explains this well with these two important tips:

"1. Establish an open dialogue with your manager around prepping for and executing these meetings.  She/he can advise on how to best engage the audience and provide some good feedback once that dialogue gets started.
2. Find yourself a mentor that is not directly your boss, but involved in some of the projects that can provide you some feedback as well."
Full Quote

With this information and the right preparation, your career will be off to a good start!


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