Gather ‘Round

Tips for more civil and effective meetings

There are probably a handful of people who like meetings, but most of us dread them and would rather have an intrusive medical procedure. In fact, according to a 2011 survey by WebEx, 60 percent of those surveyed feel nothing gets accomplished in meetings. Until meetings are eliminated from the world of business, however, we are stuck with them, so here are a few tips for keeping them at the very least tolerable.

1. Don’t schedule a meeting for something that can be accomplished via email or on the phone. This will cut down exponentially on the type of time suck meetings in which no one wants to be involved.

2. Show up on time. Your colleagues and business associates are likely as busy as you. When you show up late, you send the message that you do not value their time. If the meeting is already in full swing, the organizers may have to spend extra time bringing you up to speed, thereby forcing everyone to listen again to something they’ve already discussed. Spare everyone from this waste of time.

3. Set an agenda and stick to it. We’ve all been in meetings with no direction. Either you leave feeling as if it was a waste of time or the meeting runs over because it never had a schedule in the first place. Score extra points by distributing the agenda in advance whenever possible so your team or attendees can better prepare talking points or questions. If non-urgent, non-agenda items arise, table those for an email follow-up or the next meeting.

4. Introduce newcomers or go around the room and let everyone introduce themselves to the group. The person ranked highest in your organization or in the room goes first or is mentioned first in the introduction. For example, “Mrs. Smith, CEO, I’d like to introduce you to Mr. Collins, our new junior associate.”

5. Unless otherwise instructed, ask questions during the meeting. Holding your questions until the end can cause the meeting to go over as well, so avoid this practice and you will escape the resentment and mental groans of exasperation from your co-workers and clients.

6. Do not use your phone in a meeting and don’t leave it out on the table. Either put it in your pocket on silent or vibrate or leave it in your office. If you must take a call or respond to a text, excuse yourself from the room. If you are the person in charge, make this a company rule, so it’s clear to everyone that meetings are a phone-free zone.
7. Don’t talk over other people when they have the floor. If interrupting is the only way to be heard, do it in the most polite way by saying “Excuse me” in a firm and assertive tone.

8. If you had meeting with a client or prospective client, send a followup thank you note (handwritten, unless you are dealing with a tech company, since in that arena it can seem antiquated). Not only is a note of gratitude a great way to generate goodwill, but also it is another opportunity to get in front of your client.

By employing all of the above, when you do have to hold or attend meetings, they will go much faster and will be a lot less painless. Who knows, maybe the word will get out that you conduct the most efficient and effective meetings in your company and people will actually look forward to attending? OK, probably not, but an etiquette writer can dream.


Mind Your Manners

Engagement is key to productivity and retention

A little appreciation goes a long way. This is important whether you are meeting with long-time colleagues and clients or those new to your company or roster. According to a 2010 study by Psychometrics, when asked what leaders could do more of to improve engagement, 58 percent of respondents replied, “Give recognition.” In meetings, this can translate to welcoming your attendees, thanking them for taking time out for the meeting and offering recognition to the team or anyone in the room for a recent success.

Melanie Warner Spencer is editor of New Orleans Bride and New Orleans Homes & Lifestyles and managing editor of Louisiana Life and Acadiana Profile. Spencer’s ever-expanding library of etiquette books is rivaled only by her ever-ready stash of blank thank-you notes. Submit business etiquette questions to


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