The former chairman of our young adult’s community group, called a monthly meeting. It was a pretty large group with professionals from different backgrounds. All we knew was it was something about opportunities that government had unveiled for entrepreneurs.
None of the group members had an idea how long the meeting would be and our chairman didn’t know that everyone was infected with the month-end fever and hence nobody wanted to waste time on that particular Saturday.
The natives began to grow restless as the discussion started eating into lunchtime. Some of us started asking pointed questions thinking we could derail the presentation.
We were bored and pissed off at this waste of time. Everyone was not only hungry but also exhausted. The chairman tried all he could to revive the meeting morale with jokes and analects but none of his efforts satisfied the empty bellies of the young adults.
The bad meeting was adjourned shortly thereafter.
Professionals know that bad meetings waste time and therefore money. I figured that the bad meeting today would cost me a couple of dollars. We didn’t understand the opportunities neither did we live to invest in them.
The time-is-money cost of bad meetings is just the tip of the iceberg though.
Bad meetings also destroy morale, propagate misinformation, and cause resentment among team members.
These will destroy your organisation from within.
Successful business meetings begin and end on time, promote an atmosphere of participation and deliberate issues highlighted on the agenda. This is only possible if we adhere to meeting etiquette and protocol principles.
No matter how big or small the meeting is, “No agenda no meeting”.
The chairperson of the meeting should circulate the meeting agenda at least one week in advance. Participants should be allowed to call the chairperson to express their concerns about the agenda at least 48 hours prior to the meeting. The chairperson and concerned participants will then have time to determine if changes need to be made. The agenda should also mention the start and ending time. Have a strong agenda so that you can stay on track. If you do get off track, you should have a strong facilitator to get you back on track.
Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. Always recite the five Ps when preparing for your meetings. Each participant should come to the meeting prepared. Carry all the meeting materials and data you will need. Have an understanding of the meeting topic. Be prepared to ask and answer questions. Know your role in the meeting.
Clothing can enhance your professional reputation. The chairperson should indicate guidelines on what kind of attire is accepted at the meeting. It can be business casual or business formal and participants should follow that rule. A representative listing of the attire would be helpful as participants may have differing views on what business casual or formal is.
Arrive at the location of the meeting at least 15 minutes early. This allows you to get a seat and get comfortable before the meeting commences. If time permits, mingle with others, introduce yourself and do remember names and use them when referring to people during the meeting.
If everyone doesn’t know one another in the meeting room, you need to make introductions. You should do this by starting with the person of the highest rank.
If it’s a “sit-down” meeting, you need to adjust your chair so that you’re at equal height with everyone else at the table. Crossing your legs may be too sexy for a professional setting, especially for female participants in a skirt. Respect place cards if there are there.
Keep the meeting organised by only speaking through the chair. Ask questions during the designated question period. Raise your hand to be recognised by the chairperson. Do not interrupt someone while there are speaking. Don’t save all your questions for the end.
You may find that many of the questions you have about a topic are answered by the content of the meeting. Therefore, listen attentively and take notes.
Avoid nervous habits such as tapping the pen on the table, making audible noises with your mouth, rustling papers, or tapping your feet on the floor.
Turn off your cell phone prior to the start of the meeting. If you are expecting an urgent call, then set your phone to vibrate and excuse yourself from the meeting if the call comes in. Unless laptops have been approved for the meeting, turn yours off and lower the screen so that you do not obstruct anyone’s view.
Meetings should have a break every two hours. Breaks should be 20 minutes long and meal breaks should be 30 minutes long.
Do not bring unannounced guests to a meeting. If you have someone you would like to bring to a meeting, contact the chairperson for permission to bring your guest. It’s okay to hold or open the door for your guest and pull the chair for them, but, save these social gender rules for social settings.
If you’re going to eat, it needs to be OK with the entire group.
“You can make noise or give off smells” that are disruptive, so it needs to be OK with everyone.
Since that Saturday meeting, our former chairman learnt that, no agenda, no meeting. I hope that, this Saturday, you will pick a leaf from the techniques provided and better your meetings in the future.
-Justice Simango is a Business Etiquette Expert who writes in his own capacity. He is the Vice President Membership for Supreme Toastmasters Club. Feedback: [email protected], WhatsApp: +263 717 566 382