Back to basics – meeting etiquette

By Liz Marchant, director, Recognition PR

I spend more hours at work in meetings than out. Many people do – it is a fact of corporate life.

I am really going back to basics with this post, but poor meeting behaviour is one of my pet peeves. With so much time being spent in meetings today no-one can afford to waste time.

So what can make or break a meeting?

Meeting preparation

Firstly, what happens before the meeting is critical:

What’s the meeting agenda or purpose? Does everyone involved clearly know what will be required of them? Are you taking the right people to the meeting?

Once everyone knows the purpose, what preparation is required? For example, brainstorms are generally more effective if the team is briefed on the activity and the requirements and come to the meeting with ideas. That way you’ll spend time discussing ideas and developing them, not being briefed and then trying to think of something on the spot to get the conversation started.

How long is required for the meeting? Book the time required rather than a default time. Many calendars default to 30 or 60 minute meetings – not everything requires that kind of time. Be clear how much time needs to be invested.
Personally I have set my default meeting time to 15 minutes. That way I am forced to think about the time required for each meeting.

When thinking about timing, think about the start time of the meeting. If the meeting is out of the office, have you scheduled travel time to make sure your meeting starts on time? What about return travel time too so your meetings don’t end up running into each other?

Once you’ve thought about the meeting preparation the next thing to consider is what is going to happen in the actual meeting. What are the behaviours needed?

In the meeting

First of all, what is your view on mobile devices?

Having your phone on, and worse, in front of you is one of the latest additions to meetings. You might as well say, “Excuse me, but I have someone more important trying to reach me.”

If there is something urgent that means you need your mobile to respond to an email or take a call, advise the meeting organiser and tell the attendees at the start of the meeting.

During the course of a meeting it’s important to concentrate and stay alert. Be an attentive participant. The easiest way to do this is to be an active listener – make eye contact and acknowledge you are listening, take notes and ask questions. This shows everyone that you care.

Don’t get distracted and change focus. Sometimes meetings go for much longer than they need to, this generally happens when people get distracted. A good meeting is one that gets through the key items on the agenda with pace.
Generally giving people a few minutes to get back to their desks is seen as a positive thing.

After the meeting

It’s great to have meetings but it is important to show attendees the outcomes. I’m personally not a huge fan of meeting minutes. I do however think it’s important to remind people of the keys points discussed and show outcomes. To go back to the example of a brainstorm – what were the ideas you came up with? What’s happening with those? It’s a great way to engage people and get them excited about the next meeting.
There’s a lot to think about when it comes to meetings. To make sure the experience is great for everyone involved. When done right – it’s worth it.


Instant gratification – why short term gain doesn’t always work for the long term

Instant gratification – why short term gain doesn’t always work for the long termEverybody loves instant gratification.

Social media, email, mobile phones and credit cards have no doubt contributed to the current culture of instant gratification! I know I do it myself. I’ll send a quick text or email anytime rather than waiting, I’ll tweet or Facebook my thoughts from my mobile rather than waiting to share with someone in real life. We get pleasure from doing something now and getting instant feedback and results.

What’s wrong with that?

In many ways nothing, if it’s working for you in both the short and long term.

Personally I find my best ideas come when I’m disconnected. How often are we disconnected these days? Rarely even on weekends or holidays.

The other challenge that comes from this push for instant gratification is that tasks that aren’t easy or urgent get pushed to the bottom of the pile. This causes business stress as it’s not always the urgent, or quick tasks, that need to be done but the important tasks that take time and focus.

For businesses, the constant pressure to show instant results is dangerous. Teams risk working in a constant state of chaos feeling chronic disappointment at not instantly obtaining the expected results.

I know this is a challenge we face in the PR world. Often sending news announcements or pitches and having people wondering within hours where the coverage is. The risk is that long lead magazines are disregarded, not to mention the importance of fostering relationships – which don’t always result in instant rewards.

Managing the craving for instant gratification isn’t easy. But in the long run, we need to think more about the quality of results and continue encouraging healthy working relationships.