We all spend too much time in meetings. We accept that they are essential, yet most of them are very inefficient. Almost all business endeavours would therefore benefit from all of us following some simple rules of etiquette.
Of course, we need to be sure we need a meeting in the first place. Peter Drucker had quite an extreme view of meetings, though we know there is some truth in the quote below.
So, for now, let’s accept that the meeting is essential. If we are going to disrupt our working day and walk along to, or dial in to, a real or virtual (or hybrid) meeting, we should at least all be courteous, and follow some simple, common sense rules.
Before the Meeting
• Plan meetings to start on the hour (or half hour) & finish at 5 to (or 25 past) the hour. This helps to avoid people being late for their next meeting
• Provide an objective for each meeting and an agenda. Regular meetings with a standard agenda tend to use up time covering marginal updates
• Only invite people who are essential to the purpose of the meeting
• If a slide deck is to be presented, circulate (the link) by email just prior to meeting in case the technology fails
• If you cannot attend, decline the invitation
• Don’t forward the invitation without consulting the chair
• Test the quality of devices (headset, speakerphone, microphone, screen share) prior to the call and have an alternate phone in standby
• Be in a quiet environment
During the Meeting
• Start the meeting on time if possible, and no later than 2 min after. This rewards those who arrive on time, and helps to ensure the meeting can finish on time
• Don’t overdo the roll call as this can waste time. If it is necessary, for people on the telephone, do it once only
• Ensure the meeting progresses, and finish on time
• If necessary, interrupt & steer long or off-topic discussions
• Ensure all people get a chance to talk, and if necessary prompt people
• Briefly run through the key actions agreed
• Dial-in on time, and identify yourself by name
• Use the mute button if not speaking
• If most people know each others’ voices, there is no need to say your name before you speak
• Speak clearly into the microphone, as if everyone is virtual, even if sitting next to you; speak clearly, and don’t interrupt
• Be concise, constructive, build on others’ opinions, and be respectful
• All attendees are allowed to leave the meeting at the planned finish time
After the Meeting
• Thank everyone for their attendance, and summarise decisions made
• Circulate the actions agreed
• State the date of the next meeting, where appropriate
• Perform the actions assigned to you, and do not wait to be chased.
Here is a summary of the key rules (PDF): Meeting etiquette
Print it out, laminate it, and use it. Please.
If you can agree to these rules of etiquette in your organisation, you can then politely hold each other to account. Your meetings will see a dramatic rise in efficiency and even enjoyment, and your tasks and projects will get completed sooner.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite quotes…
With thanks to Mike Griffin for his input to an earlier version of these rules.