March 6, 2012

Meeting Etiquette: Silence is Golden

How many meetings have you already attended in the first quarter of this New Year? Did you leave feeling they were fast and productive? Or were the meetings filled with sidebars, sounding off, and cell phone interruptions? Gulp . . . I’m guilty on all counts. Perhaps this is a good time to refresh ourselves on effective meeting etiquette.

I remember the days when all meetings were run under strict parliamentary procedures guided by Robert’s Rules of Order. Knowledge of the rules was once held in such high esteem people put it on their resume as a skill.

Now in our fast-paced, high tech society we see articles like the one in The Wall Street Journal describing "stand-up meetings” and people holding ten pound medicine balls to eliminate wasted time, long-winded discussions and folks playing games or texting on their cell phones.

Whatever type of meeting you attend, here are a few rules of courtesy that will help us spend our time wisely.

Be On Time

Arrive at least five minutes early. Late arrivals cause distractions and delay the agenda. Respect everyone’s treasured timeframes, including your own. When we arrive early, the meeting can start on time and possibly end early – yay! Party bonus!

End Conversations Before Start Time

Appreciate the challenge of a moderator getting a meeting started and ended on time. Be in your seat and discontinue discussions before the call to order. Loud on-going conversations delay attempts to get the group on task.

Put Away the Cell Phone

If you must carry your cell phone into a meeting, please put it on vibrate. Keep it in your pocket or purse or place it on a notepad. The sound of it vibrating against a hard surface is as diverting as the sound of it ringing. Are you really giving your full attention to the meeting’s purpose and putting on your “thinking cap” when you’re texting or playing games?

Allow Speakers to Finish Their Thoughts

Interrupting the person who has the floor (their turn to speak) stops the train of thought and valuable insight might be left unsaid. Write your questions or concepts on a notepad. Ask for clarification or state your opinion when it’s your turn to have the floor. Refrain from “sounding off” because you have strong feelings about a subject - make your point quickly and efficiently.


Although it has a different dictionary definition, sidebars has become a term used to describe two or more people carrying on a separate conversation during a meeting. The chatting may be relevant to the topic; however it interrupts the flow of the meeting and diverts attention away from the person who has the floor. This is a case where silence really is golden.


Written by Susan Fix, The Applied Companies Community Liaison Partner. Fix has worked 15 years in staffing services performing outside sales, recruiting, permanent and temporary placement coordination, career counseling, customer service and social media/business.

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