This was written by Dr. Stacia Levy
What are some common mistakes in business meeting etiquette for students to know and how can they be avoided?
Not Being PreparedNot dressing correctly, not knowing what the meeting is really about, and not bringing important documents or handouts are common concerns. I’ve seen fellow committee members ask to borrow pens and necessary handouts sent out beforehand—these are materials that professionals should have with them. Such lack of preparation creates a poor impression and wastes the time of other participants. The problem can be addressed by preparing each evening and/or morning before a meeting: think about what will happen at the meeting, who will be there, how to dress, and what to take with you.
Not Focusing on the MeetingThere is a lot of inattentive behavior at meetings, the American attention span being notoriously short: cell phones ringing, participants texting under the table, whispering and off-topic conversation between members, etc. Some of this is just human behavior, but avoid excesses in these areas. Turn off your cell phone for the duration of the meeting, skim through the agenda and other handouts, listen attentively to the conversation, and contribute to it. Participants who do this enough will be noted for their strong group participation.
UnprofessionalismAlthough friendliness and some humor are almost always appropriate and welcome, avoid excesses in these areas. I once was on a school committee in which two of the group members apparently saw the weekly meetings as an occasion to try out their comedy routines. I began to dread going as nothing got done as everyone who spoke up on committee business was interrupted with joking. Others apparently felt the same way as I about the time drain, and the committee disbanded not long after—too bad, as it had the important mission of strengthening standards of ESL classes. Other nonprofessional behavior to be avoided includes extreme emotion: if you really feel you can’t control your anger or tearfulness, it might be best to excuse yourself from the meeting. Excessive complaining about the organization and its clients is also unprofessional and a drag on the committee, affecting attendance and commitment to the committee. Don’t be the committee killer!
Lack of Respect for Committee Members and MissionAll of these rules could probably be summed up in the reminder to respect the committee, its reason for being, and the people who serve on it. It’s very common for a committee to take on a life its own and for its participants to get so caught up in the attendance of the meetings and their routines that the overall mission gets forgotten. By staying focused on what the committee’s mission is, what you can do toward the mission each day, or week, or month, you can begin to shift the focus back to where it belongs: the critical purposes of the committee and how you and your colleagues fit within that purpose and what that means about how you relate to fellow committee members. So, for example, if I am focusing on the committee and its purpose, I won’t get tempted to be pulled into my colleague’s complaint session and will gently remind her, “Where on the agenda are we? Oh, yes. Let’s hear what our speaker has to say.”