The 15 Rules of Meeting Etiquette

Colin Duff

Colin Duff | August 13, 2019

Ever had a nightmare meeting? You know the one. The one with the coworker who scrolls through social media the whole time, the one eating their lunch, or another who whispers into the conferencing speaker.

To avoid future meetings like this and help you keep your sanity, I'll break down the top rules of meeting etiquette.

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Pre-meeting

1. Choose the best time for everyone.

Take into account where everyone is located. Are they calling in from home or are they in the office? Check folks' calendars to make sure you're not double booking. If people are attending from other time zones, try to find something that'll work for everyone. This guide is a big help in getting people across time zones in a meeting together with as little conflict as possible. Some compromise may be necessary, but getting 90% of meeting invitees in attendance is better than choosing a time that only works for your own office.


2. Find the right room for your meeting size and equipment needs.

Your meeting room has more of an impact on your meeting than you'd think. Give everyone the elbow space they need and avoid packing everyone into a room that's too small. If your options are limited to a huddle room or a room that can't fit everyone, have some people video conference in from separate meeting spaces or their desks.

Pick the right A/V equipment for the room to be respectful of your team and their time. If those calling in can't see or hear those in attendance and vice versa, valuable time will be spent fixing the A/V issues. Test your devices beforehand to eliminate problems and quickly solve anything that comes up.


3. Make (and follow) an agenda.

Before setting up a meeting, make sure it's necessary. Use a meeting checklist to decide if a meeting is required. Be effective with the time you have in your meeting by setting an agenda ahead of time. Have attendees add their respective sections as well and you'll be done ahead of time.

Try to stick to the agenda as much as possible; it'll keep you on track and get everyone out on time. Moving through items randomly as they come up will derail positive contributions for things directly tied to your meeting.


During your meeting

4. Show up on time.

This age-old piece of advice is useful for all aspects of life, especially meetings. Preferably, five minutes early, maybe even earlier if you're the host. Although you may think your team won't mind if you're five minutes late grabbing a coffee, this type of thinking can have negative repercussions. Soon others will start showing up later and later following your example.

Everyone has busy schedules, so respecting their time and using it well is important for team harmony. Time is money, so make sure you know how the cost of your meeting will be impacted by running long with this tool. If you want to keep your team on track, distraction-free, and in-and-out in as little time as possible, showing up right on time will do the trick.


5. Know what you're responsible for.

Nothing looks more unprofessional than being asked about your work and being unable to answer questions about it. Know what you're bringing to the table and be prepared for any questions people may have about it. Run through a list of the questions before the meeting starts and be prepared to answer them.

If something does catch you off guard, don't panic. Rather than stumbling through a response that makes no sense, let them know that you don't know the answer at the moment but that you'll research and get back to them.


6. Introduce folks who are new or calling in.

Making introductions allows everyone attending the meeting to feel welcome if they haven't participated with your specific group before. If you're calling in to a meeting without video or speaking to someone who's calling in, be sure to let them know who it is that's speaking to ease confusion. Otherwise, you'll talk over them or make them feel unwelcome.


7. Mute yourself when you're not speaking in a video conference.

An unmuted microphone can lead to some pretty awkward moments if someone doesn't realize they're able to be heard. A fan running in the background or calling in from a crowded cafe can also bring annoying sound into a meeting and distract your coworkers.

To avoid your team having to tell you there's sound in the background, mute yourself when not speaking out of precaution. You'll save everyone's ears and your potential embarrassment.


8. Pay attention!

Help your team feel valued with the work they're doing by paying attention to them while speaking. It can be easy to lose interest and let your mind wander in these meetings, but it's important to listen to everything that's going on.

Practice "active listening" by making eye contact, nodding occasionally, and reiterating their points in follow up conversations. You'll be more productive in meetings, and support your colleagues along the way.


9. Have a good posture.

Slouching in your seat communicates to everyone in the room that you don't care about what's happening. As hard as it may be, sit up straight and stay still in your chair.

Fidgeting or swinging back and forth is distracting, and a little unprofessional. With good posture, you'll feel more alert and contribute more valuable points to the conversation.


10. Share the conversation.

Making everyone feel valued in the meeting should be your number one goal, and equitably sharing the conversation is one way to do that. Although you may have some great points, talking over participants or continually interjecting can be frustrating to others trying to join the conversation.

Add important points when needed, but ask others in the room for their input as well. You'll get a more diverse array of opinions and probably discover something you hadn't thought about before.


11. Speak loudly and clearly.

A common gripe about meetings is the inability to hear a person in the room or online that's speaking. You shouldn't have to strain your ears to try to pick up on someone's valuable points. Speaking in a clear and confident voice allows everyone to hear you and have the meeting run on time. You'll save others time without having to repeat yourself.

Speaking loudly also projects confidence, communicating to others that the ideas expressed are solid. But, don't shout. Seriously. Protecting your colleagues' eardrums should be your priority.


12. No eating or drinking (besides water or coffee).

We've all been tempted to sneak in some snacks to the Monday afternoon standup. You might think "these almonds won't sound too loud". However, that isn't usually the case. Unless you're attending a lunch and learn session, eating in a dedicated time and space for communication and collaboration can be perceived as unprofessional. Not only is it distracting, but it can make your other team members hungry, ruining the meeting flow.

However, drinking water is acceptable. We all need to hydrate, and sneaking a couple of sips isn't frowned upon. Coffee is a bit more tricky though. Most people are ok with it, as long as you aren't running late (check out rule 4!) to get your caffeine fix.


13. Ask questions at the appropriate time.

While asking questions is key to being on the same page, an endless stream of them can push meetings over the edge. Time is everyone's most valuable asset, and too many questions can become unnecessary and push a quick 10-minute chat into a 30-minute ordeal.

Ask a question when it's vital for clarification of the whole team, or if people generally seem confused. If you have a particular question about a point of interest, save it for the end or for that person to discuss one on one. A good rule of thumb is to ask yourself, "Does everyone need this answered?" before raising your hand.


Post-meeting

14. Thank everyone for attending and presenting.

Meetings can be stressful, long, and even a little dry. So take your time to thank everyone for attending and contributing.

You'll build up their confidence, make them feel valued, and show them that their quality work is appreciated. They'll be more likely to do a good job in the future if they know their hard work is being recognized and paying off.


15. Follow up with required deliverables.

To get the most out of this meeting, follow up on a specific list of deliverables needed for the next time you all meet. You'll stay on top of your work, clearly communicate who's expected to do what, and save time and effort for everyone involved.

Looking for more tips on how to run good meetings? We have all our best advice here!

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