Whether you are Chairing a formal business meeting at your office or attending one as a participant – it puts you in front of your co-workers, colleagues, superiors or clients. In these situations, it is important that you demonstrate a strong professional presence and polished image in order to build credibility, trust and respect with them and leave a lasting, positive impression.
To enhance your professional presence and image while Chairing or attending a business meeting, it is wise to implement the following 12 business meeting etiquette tips:
1. Do your homework. Adequately prepare for the meeting as your contribution, whether as a Chair or participant, will be important to the proceedings.
2. Dress like you mean business. People make assessments about your level of professionalism based on your physical appearance, so dress for success and let your personal image work for you, not against you.
3. Arrive on time. Even better, be early. Respecting people’s time is of utmost importance. Being on time demonstrates your commitment, dependability and consistency. In turn, people will learn they can rely on you.
4. Make introductions. If you are a meeting Chair, take the opportunity to introduce the meeting attendees to one another. As an attendee, take the initiative to introduce yourself to others whom you have not yet met, and reacquaint yourself with those you have. Within the workplace, rank and forms of address are important. It is proper protocol to introduce the person of the highest rank or authority first, followed by the person with lesser rank or authority. An example of this introduction would be: “Ms. Greater Authority, I would like to introduce to you, Mr. Lesser Authority.”
5. Master your handshake. We notice people non-verbally by their touch, and the way we touch someone in business is with our handshake. It is the physical greeting that goes with our words. Your handshake reveals and conveys a great deal about you such as your professionalism, credibility, and confidence. Your handshake should be firm but friendly. Extend your hand as you give your greeting. The person who initiates the handshake comes comes across as confident and at ease – and in turn, puts others at ease.
6. Stand up to meet another person. If you are seated and someone comes to introduce him or herself to you, it is proper protocol to always stand up to meet them. This allows you to engage with the person effectively by making direct eye contact on an equal eye-to-eye level. By remaining seated, you send a message you don’t think the other person is important enough to warrant the effort it takes to stand.
7. Remember names. Listen carefully and pay attention when you meet a new person at a business meeting. Deliberately take the time for more than an exchange of names. Use the person’s name in conversation. Use it often. Repetition builds memory.
8. Be aware of your body language. Whether you are sitting around a boardroom table, or standing and conversing with meeting attendees, it is important to be engaging and able to put others at ease – so be aware of what you may be saying just by your body language. Be aware of your posture – good posture instantly creates an impression of confidence and sets the stage for others to accept you as a leader. Smile – it makes you appear friendly, approachable and interested in getting to know others.
9. Acknowledge others. It is important to acknowledge the introduction or opening remarks made at a meeting with a brief recognition of the Chair and the other participants. It is proper protocol to allow more senior figures to contribute first and lead the way.
10. Never interrupt. It is important to allow everyone present at the meeting to contribute and present his or her opinion, based on the items to be addressed on the meeting agenda. No matter how strongly you may disagree with what someone is saying or proposing, wait until they are finished speaking and then present your opinion or feedback.
11. Be respectful of time and people. When speaking, be brief and ensure what you say is relevant. If there is a formal Chair for the meeting, address the Chair when speaking. Most importantly, do not divulge information about the meeting to anyone who was not present (outsiders). Matters discussed during a business meeting are private and confidential and to breach this is not only poor business etiquette, but is unethical.
12. Leave your mobile and iPhone at your desk. Many people bring their mobile or iPhone to a business meeting and place it on the boardroom table. Don’t do this! It is distracting and signals to others that you are not truly “present” for that meeting and that someone else, virtually, is more important. Put it in your pocket, keep it on vibrate. In the case of an emergency, leave the room if you have to take the call or return a text. It is extremely rude to on your phone or texting during a meeting.
By implementing these business meeting etiquette tips, you will enable your professional presence and image to shine through while making a first and lasting impression. All pluses in today’s highly competitive business arena.