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Even if you dread them, meetings put you in front of coworkers and bosses who you may not work with on a regular basis. That means how you conduct yourself in them may leave a lasting impression.
Is it acceptable to eat during a meeting, or check your phone? Should you be the person asking questions at the end? If broken, the unwritten rules of meeting professionalism may damage your reputation.
To get a better idea of how to maintain a positive, professional image while in a meeting, we reached out to Barbara Pachter, career coach and author of the book “The Essentials Of Business Etiquette,” who gave us 10 rules you should know:
1. Be on time.
Make sure you come on time and prepare for the meeting ahead of time, says Pachter. You don’t want to waste anyone else’s time by not being punctual.
“Leaders need to start on time so people can depend on that,” she tells us.
2. Make introductions.
If everyone doesn’t know one another in the meeting room, you need to make introductions. You should do this by starting with the person of the highest rank first, says Pachter.
For example, “Ms. Greater Importance, I would like you to meet Mr. Lesser Importance.”
3. Have a strong agenda.
This is part of being prepared, but you should have a good, strong agenda so that you can stay on track. If you do get off track, you should have a strong facilitator to get you back on track, says Pachter.
4. Sit appropriately.
If it’s a sit-down meeting, you need to adjust your chair so that you’re at equal height with everyone else at the table. “Some people don’t adjust their chairs, so they end up being the little kid in the meeting,” says Pachter.
5. Speak up.
When people speak in meetings they need to speak loudly enough so that everyone hears what they’re saying. “Many men and women, especially women, do not speak loudly enough. And speaking softly is a subtle nonverbal action that can affect your professionalism,” says Pachter.
6. Understand the unwritten speaking rules.
It’s not polite to interrupt others, but in some meetings, you have to interrupt at some point or you won’t be heard. Understand the rules so that you can have a productive meeting.
7. Do not have your phone out.
A lot of people keep their phones on the table during meetings, says Pachter. Don’t do this. Even if you aren’t looking at your phone, it can get distracting if it starts lighting up or making noises.
“Put it in your pocket, keep it on vibrate, and leave the room if you have to take the call or return a text,” says Pachter. “It’s really, really rude to be texting during a meeting.”
8. You can drink coffee, but you need permission for anything else.
If you’re going to eat, it needs to be OK with the entire group, says Pachter. “You can make noise or give off smells” that are disruptive, so it needs to be OK with everyone.
9. Clean up after yourself.
This is especially true if you were drinking or eating during the meeting. You need to clean up after yourself and leave things the way you found them, says Pachter. Otherwise, it’s not professional.
10. Don’t save all your questions for the end.
Ask your questions at the appropriate time. Do not be the person who starts “asking questions and adding stuff that doesn’t need to be added” when everyone’s getting ready to go, warns Pachter.