Meeting Manners - Part II

In our first post on Meeting Manners, we discussed the etiquette for scheduling leading up to a meeting. This time, we talk with Jodi about what happens once you have successfully scheduled a meeting.

The Meeting Itself

Before the meeting, do I need to remind my guests?

If you plan a meeting more than a week in advance, the host should remind the participants one or two days before with a confirmation email. And be sure to include an in-transit contact number should plans be delayed or go awry.

How do I get a conversation flowing?

When you finally do meet, remember this: small talk leads to big talk.

Even when there is an agenda, it is considered impolite to be all business. You should ask about their summer, or ask about their hobbies/interests. The host should provide a basic agenda for the meeting so that guest(s) know what to expect.

To avoid any awkward transitions from chit chat to agenda items, the host can stand up at the head of the table and say "Thank you all for coming, now we can begin."

During the meeting, be aware, people usually say things they regret during pregnant pauses. So when you have asked a question, wait for the answer. And when you are done answering a question, stop talking.

Is it polite for a guest to resist letting the host pay?

A truly skilled host will arrange with the venue so that the check never comes to the table so there is never an issue. The last thing the host would want is an uncomfortable moment at the end of the interaction. If the host has not arranged for the bill to be paid after the guest has left, the host should at least have his/her credit card at the ready to when the bill comes, the credit card goes into the folio immediately and is handed right back to the wait staff. No time for a discussion. In other words, a skilled host makes sure there is no opportunity for the guest to politely resist.

When the host is not yet fully polished, the guest must pretend as if the host is savvier than evidenced. This means that when the bill arrives, the guest should politely thank the host and then become fascinated with the artwork on the wall while the host handles the bill.

It is a manners myth that the guest should politely resist. For a guest to offer to help with the bill is to insult the host as it implies the host, despite issuing the invitation, cannot afford the bill.

Wrapping Up The Meeting

How do you end a meeting gracefully when the conversation is flowing so well?

As a host, when you have allotted a specific amount of time for an event, you should never let it run long. Occasionally the agenda items outlast the meeting’s timeframe. When the discussion must continue, as the host, you must ask for others’ permission to continue. When you realize it might happen, ask the participants who can stay, and allow them a chance to opt out.

As the meeting concludes, be sure to smoothly transition to the close. For on-going meetings, be sure to review next steps, future agenda items and specific task assignments. For all meetings, briefly review what was accomplished and thank the participants for their time.

For some meetings you will want to follow up, but be sure to allow others to review and consider the information discussed before making a decision.

We discussed a tremendous amount of information today. Please take the time to think about this proposal. I will be in touch next week to determine next steps.

When this meeting concludes, and its time to schedule the next meeting, you start the intent process from the beginning.

What about when someone suggests extending the meeting?

Occasionally, someone may propose changing venues to continue the interaction; like grabbing a drink or dinner after the meeting. On a date, Jodi says to think of yourself as a stand-up comic. If you have a 10 minute set and you get a big laugh at 6 minutes - you get off the stage. In other words, end the date while the other person still finds you fascinating.

How do you gracefully leave social or business settings that require coordinating a group exit - not just you?

Things are a bit trickier if you are not making the decision by yourself. At a dinner gathering with your romantic partner, you can use eye contact to discuss whether you want to stay or leave. If you have been dating more than 6 months, you should have clear signals already set in advance.

If you went to a business meeting with your colleagues, you can say you need to check in with the office, then step out and discuss.

You should also set expectations early: "It would be fabulous to have one drink together."

If you don't want to go for another drink, or don't think the meeting can help you, you should thank the person profusely and say "I'm so sorry I can't." Notice all I said was I can't. Never give a reason why as that would allow them an opportunity refute your explanation and lead to a very awkward interaction.

If they ask why, you can simply say "I already have a long-standing obligation." Just because someone asks you does not mean you need to answer them. Then you should schedule something else. You should refocus from rejection onto when you are going to see them again.

Rescheduling and Running Late

What if I have to reschedule?

As the host, you should do everything possible not to have to reschedule. In my experience, rescheduling is the biggest scheduling mistake people make. When you are constantly rescheduling that sends a message about your inability to manage time. People who are good at what they do do not have to constantly reschedule.

For larger groups, especially when people are counting on your attendance, be very respectful not to cancel. If people have already rearranged their schedules, it is extremely rude to make a change. Consider if there is someone else you can send in your stead.

In case of a true emergency, as soon as you know, tell the others so they can rearrange their schedule - especially if there is any travel time involved. When you reschedule, suggest to meet again at the soonest time possible. You want to make it clear that there was some extenuating circumstance, and that your guests are your top priority.

What if I am running late to a meet up?

Being perpetually late is problematic too. It is another big mistake people make, and should be avoided. It not only signals that you are not good at managing your time, but also that you do not value other people's time.

When getting ready to leave and you are already running behind, be sure to notify the people you are meeting that you will be late. By doing this, you give people a chance to make the most of their time instead of sitting around wondering and waiting for you. If they are already at the venue call the staff to start some refreshments to be added to your tab.