The goal of meeting etiquette is to make meetings useful and productive. Follow the rules of meeting etiquette and be a well-respected professional.
What meeting etiquette is
Meeting etiquette is the set of rules to appropriately schedule, prepare, and run a meeting in the modern workplace. Such rules include:
- Rules to set, prepare, and run an effective business meeting.
- The appropriate actions after a meeting.
- The etiquette mistakes to avoid.
As an employee, you should respect meeting etiquette to appropriately attend a meeting, look professional, and avoid any embarrassments.
As a manager or employer, promote meeting etiquette in your team to ensure the efficient use of time and effective meeting culture in your company.
Meeting etiquette rules
1) Etiquette for managing the cost of a meeting
Meetings have a cost. They cost time. The cost of a meeting depends on 3 factors.
- Duration of the meeting.
- Average hourly salary of the attendants.
- The number of attendants.
To calculate the cost of a meeting, use this easy formula:
Cost of a meeting = (Duration of the meeting) * (Average hourly salary of the attendants) * (number of attendants).
A productive meeting creates more value than it costs. Meeting etiquette helps managers to decrease the cost of meetings and increase the value created.
2) Etiquette rules for preparing a meeting
If you do not prepare a meeting, you risk wasting company resources. An unstructured meeting risks wasting your time and the time of the other managers.
Preparing a meeting is all about planning the goal of the meeting, and then understanding how much time you need to achieve such a goal.
Clarify the goal of the meeting
The goal of the meeting must be tangible and not vague. A decision is a tangible output. A discussion is not tangible. If the goal of the meeting is vague and generic, such as a discussion, do not schedule the meeting.
Understand the type of meeting
To clarify the goal, understand the type of meeting you need. The type of meeting does not depend on what you do during it. Instead, the type of meeting depends on its goal.
There are three types of meetings. Any meeting, such as an employee performance review, can be any one of the three types.
1) Decision meetings. Meetings to take a business decision. The decision is the tangible output.
2) Consensus meetings. Meetings to create alignment on a topic. Agreeing on a shared view of the topic is the output.
3) Status update meeting. Meetings to review the advancement on a topic. However, a simple status update can be done via email. Thus, a status update meeting is appropriate only to make decisions that are needed as a consequence of the update. The output of such a meeting is agreeing on the next steps to take.
Can you avoid scheduling this meeting?
Do not schedule a meeting that you can avoid. Can you advance in your work without the goal of that meeting? Can you reach the goal of the meeting in another way? For example, with a call, an email, or an instant message thread. If it is possible, do not schedule the meeting.
Invite the right people
Whom do you need in the meeting to achieve your goal? If you need a decision, invite the appropriate decision-makers. If you need consensus, only invite the persons you need to agree with.
Start small. It is good meeting etiquette to ask the invited managers if other attendees are needed.
Senior managers cost a lot. Thus, do not invite them if you can reach the meeting goal without them. Even if you do not invite senior managers, you can always notify them with a written update after the meeting.
Minimize the scope of the meeting
Whenever possible, try to limit the scope of the meeting. Break the meeting into smaller meetings. Invite fewer attendants. Multiple smaller meetings are more productive than a single larger one. If your goal is a decision, consider having small preparatory meetings to create consensus before the meeting.
Prepare a pre-read document. It can be a memo or a few slides professionally written. The goal of the pre-read is to share information before the meeting. Thus, pre-reads save time. Attendants will get the needed information from the pre-read before the meeting. So, you will need less time to go through the same information during the meeting.
Plan the meeting agenda and script
Set the agenda. Break it into steps. Assign time to each step.
If you present slides, count at least 2 minutes for each slide. Use a maximum of 15-20 slides. Usually, very few people pay attention beyond 20 slides. Thus, if you need more than 20 slides for your meeting, it may be best to break the meeting into multiple smaller meetings.
Write down the script of the meeting. A script contains the most important things you want to say or ask in the meeting. Test run your presentation. Make sure that the narrative flows. Make sure that you can manage the presentation in the allocated amount of time.
The time for discussion should at least equal the time of the presentation. If you present or talk for 10 or 15 minutes, you need a 30-minute meeting. If you have 20 slides, you need a 1-hour meeting.
Plan the meeting logistics
Schedule the meeting at a time that is convenient for all the attendees. Be strategic. Do not schedule the meeting before 10 am or after 5 pm. Before 10 am people may be late, or have urgent issues to deal with. After 5 pm, people may have personal plans or be tired.
Book a meeting room before you send the invitation. Book a room that can seat more attendees than you are inviting and follow the key meeting room etiquette rules.
Send the invitations to the meeting
Send a calendar invitation to the meeting by email. Make sure that you send the invitations well in advance. Be clear on which attendees are optional. The invitation must contain all the information that the attendees may need.
- The subject of the meeting and the desired goal.
- Pre-read document.
- Information about the meeting room.
- Link for a video call or phone number to dial in.
- If you need any action from the attendees before the meeting, state it in the invitation. Such as reading the pre-read document.
3) Rules for running the meeting
Running a meeting can be relatively easy if you prepare well. You just need to stick to the plan.
Dress appropriately for the meeting. The dress code usually depends on the formality of the meeting and on the attendants. If the meeting is with a formal client, dress formally. In any case, make sure that your personal hygiene and clothes hygiene is impeccable.
Test the meeting logistics
Before the meeting, you can send a reminder to the attendees. Send it a few hours or a day before. The reminder can be an email or an instant message. Check that there are enough seats in the room. Test the equipment.
Follow the etiquette for starting & pacing
Start when all the attendees are in the room. If some people are late, it is perfect etiquette to start after 5 or 10 minutes. Otherwise, you will disrespect the punctual attendees.
Stick to the agenda. Encourage comments and questions. However, keep moving. If one comment or question requires a long time to discuss, move the discussion to after the presentation.
If the discussion strays to a new topic, offer to schedule a separate meeting to discuss it. If a question requires deeper investigation, do not discuss it. Offer to follow up after the meeting. Stick to our agenda.
Make sure that all the attendees have time to speak. If you invited them, they must be necessary for the meeting. So, you may want them to agree on a topic, or commit to a decision. If one or more attendees have not expressed their opinion, you should politely invite them to do so.
4) After-meeting etiquette
Send a meeting recap
After the meeting, it is perfect etiquette to always send a written recap. Recap the output of the meeting. You do not need to recap the full discussion.
If the desired output was not reached, state why. Outline the next steps that were agreed on. Send the written recap to all the meeting attendees. It is good etiquette to include other managers that should be informed too.
It is perfect meeting etiquette to ask the attendees to confirm the recap. A polite way is by asking them to correct or to add their comments to the recap. If they do not correct or comment, you can safely assume that they approve the content of the recap.
Manage the follow-up
If during a meeting you agree on the next steps, you should keep the attendees informed. Thus, plan to share a periodic status update with the attendees.
Meeting etiquette: the worst mistakes
The Rude Index identifies and ranks negative behaviors.
A high score (8-10) means that the behavior has the potential to trigger a conflict with others. A medium score (4-7) means that the behavior risks making you look inelegant and unsophisticated. More about the Rude Index and its methodology here.
Avoid the worst meeting etiquette mistakes.
- 9/10. Not preparing for the meeting.
- 8/10. Scheduling a meeting that you can avoid.
- 6/10. Inviting more people than necessary.
- 4/10. Not following up after the meeting.
- Harvard Business Review Meeting Cost Calculator