1. Don’t be late.
That’s right; everyone else’s time is just as important as yours. So if you’re running a meeting with multiple participants, start the meeting on time. Late comers will just have to catch up, and maybe next meeting be on time. If you are in a client-vendor situation, and you are the vendor, then obviously hold the meeting for the client. Unfortunately, most clients feel their time is more valuable than yours, and if you want the business, you’ll need to be aware that’s how the cookie crumbles.
2. Call ahead if you are going to be late.
Everyone knows that, right? Wrong. They might know it, but they don’t adhere to it. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve sat waiting on someone to show up for an appointment in my office, or waited in their office for them to see me. Allow enough time before scheduled meetings to show up at the appointed hour.
3. Dress appropriately.
If you are going to meet a client or another associate at his/her office, find out what the general dress code is for that business. This is particularly important the first time you meet with someone. When I was just starting out, I NEVER wore a suit. However, I had the chance to make a presentation to Delta Airlines. I researched and discovered they wore suits to work. So, I followed suit, so to speak. Halfway through the presentation, I asked if I might remove my jacket as the room was quite warm. Everyone removed their jackets! And guess, what, I got the business. It wasn’t so much that I just wore a suit, but I wouldn’t have been credible to them walking in the door if I hadn’t.
In the case of an all-day meeting, the facilitator should provide information regarding the preferred dress code, whether it be causal or formal.
4. Provide an agenda if you are chairing the meeting.
The agenda should be circulated in advance with as much lead time as appropriate. Participants should provide any issues or changes with topics at least 24-hours in advance.
5. Do not put your cell phone on the table during a meeting.
If you use an iPad to take notes, let your host or facilitator know that you are using your iPad for that purpose. Otherwise, everyone will think you are busy working on what you consider to be “more important” issues. Don’t take calls during a meeting. If you are expecting an urgent call, let the host or facilitator know that you have unavoidable issues that might require you to take an important call or text. Once the call comes through, excuse yourself, get up and go out of the room to a private area where you won’t disturb others. I’ll never forget an important meeting with a client where one of my associates got a call, held up her finger, answered the call and then went into the hall. She didn’t shut the door and instead had a loud and quite emotional conversation with the party on the other end of the phone. I was embarrassed beyond belief, and guess what, we didn’t get the business!
6. Don’t interrupt someone when he or she is speaking.
Oftentimes meeting participants become so enthusiastic about the issues at hand that they forget their manners. We’ve all done it. That doesn’t mean you have to raise your hand to speak, but a slight gesture to indicate you have something to add as soon as the previous person has completed his/her input works. And never have “side conversations” while others are talking. Try to treat others with the respect you would like to receive.
7. If you are attending a meeting, be prepared.
A meeting can be derailed quickly if you fail to bring the necessary materials for the meeting. Think that’s a no-brainer? Think again. I’ve scrapped plenty of meetings because participants didn’t bring the necessary materials.
8. Avoid nervous habits.
Don’t tap your pen or pencil on the table. Don’t make audible noises with your mouth, roll your eyes in disagreement or disrespect, tap your feet on the floor or rustle your papers. I once had a colleague who incessantly sighed during meetings. It was never clear whether he was frustrated, tired or bored!
9. Be attentive and respectful.
Don’t stare at your fingernails. Look at others while they are speaking and be prepared to add constructive solutions. Don’t argue or try one-upmanship during a meeting. If you do disagree, politely provide alternative solutions. Don’t try to embarrass anyone but rather offer the alternatives in a professional manner. I once was in a meeting with approximately 20 other people, and the chairman of the meeting purposely embarrassed one of the female professionals by insulting her. Everyone was stunned into momentary silence, and then yours truly asked him to apologize and set a more professional tone for the meeting. Everyone voiced his/her opinion from around the room to support my comments. The man was a lost cause, but at least everyone else in the meeting felt good about defending our colleague.
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— John Daly is the founder and president of The Key Class, the go-to guide for job search success. Click here to learn more about The Key Class or get information on Thursday night classes in Santa Barbara. Click here for previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.