A Few Rants on Meeting Etiquette

I get to see a lot of meeting behavior. A few rules I use for meetings:

  1. End the meeting at 5 minutes before the hour. Most people have another meeting starting on the hour, and this gives them a shot at transportation and bio-break time.
  2. Ask people to turn off phones, laptops, etc directly. If I'm teaching a workshop, I cannot know if the person doing email or texting is making the right decision. I don't bother to ask. I have asked people to move out of the way if their equipment is in the way of the people working on the simulations. If you are in a meeting and someone else's behavior is bugging you, talk to that person directly.
  3. Keep a parking lot of issues to get back to, and get back to them.
  4. Track ongoing action items. Especially if you're dealing with managers who have too many context switches to enumerate, make it easy for them to see all their action items in one place.

I have a few other rants on other workplace etiquette, such as cell phone conversations in the bathroom (Please, put the phone down. Shut it. Don't forget to wash your hands when you're done. Ugh).

Many of my rules arise from the idea that just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

8 Replies to “A Few Rants on Meeting Etiquette”

  1. I have one suggestion to add to the list, the most screamingly obvious one. So obvious that no one says it.

    “Be Early!” A 9am meeting does not mean you walk in the door at 9am, it means you should be READY for business at 9am. If you take three or four minutes to settle in, get your pad out, write the heading of the meeting on your note pad, great, be there at 8:56!

    A corollary to that is, don’t plan to arrive at a 9am meeting with a minute to spare, you’ll never do it. You’ll always get caught in the hall. The more important you are, the more likely you’ll get tagged and delayed.

    Thanks for your excellent suggestions.

  2. I guess I want to add one final thought on your notes. As a meeting participant, I would be truly mortified to have to have someone tell me to turn off my phone (or other noise-maker). We should never have to be told to not be disruptive in a meeting. It’s not rocket science to learn how to disable the ringer on a phone.

  3. I think your second points may be symptoms of the problem rather than the problem itself. Too many meetings that are irrelevant to too many of the attendees. I everyone in the meeting is involved and engaged, the other problems will disappear.

  4. hah! Okay, I’m sure this is TMI, but you reminded me of it, so here goes…

    In the bathrooms at one of my customer sites, I noticed there were signs reminding people to please flush the toilet when they were done. What?! I laughed, these are professional people working here, how could they possibly need a sign to remember to flush?

    It turned out that they were SO busy they couldn’t put their cell phones down even when they went in the bathroom and they weren’t flushing so the caller wouldn’t hear.

    Okay, now seriously, that is just TOO busy, if you ask me.

    (totally agree on the meeting etiquette rants, BTW – but, seriously Johanna, I know you can do a better “rant” then this 😉 )

  5. Last night I attended a speech where the topic was multi-tasking in meetings. The message was, it’s here to stay, get used to it and manage it. Particularly in virtual meetings, conference calls, etc., most people are doing something other than being fully engaged. The message was that most people in most meetings don’t need to be fully engaged most of the time. Encourage them to multi-task during these times, and then get their attention when you need it. Nothing was said about the cost of context-switching. Turns out the guy was trying to sell us meeting management software.

  6. I spend a fair amount of my time in standing (recurring and seated) meetings. Yesterday, I was in a meeting for a project that is making progress but is about 6 months behind schedule. We have this status meeting every two weeks to discuss the same interdepartmental issues with scheduling work around one group’s vacation time. I finished 3 scripts for one of the main web apps remaining in this project while participating in this meeting.

    Had laptops been disallowed, I would still be trying to find time to finish those apps. Good meeting facilitation with agendas increase participation. Just like Inbox Zero for email management, some meeting questions can be answered immediately by people using those electronic devices.

  7. Pingback: QAspire - Quality, Management, Leadership & Life! » 25 Lessons Learnt on Conducting Productive Meetings

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