11 Meeting Etiquette Rules You Should Follow at Work

Updated September 29, 2023

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A team sits at a conference table and listens to a speaker, who is out of the image's frame.

Meeting efficiency has a direct effect on the productivity and success of a company. One of the primary factors driving meeting efficiency is meeting etiquette displayed by attendees. Following a set of meeting etiquette rules can help you demonstrate professionalism and leadership qualities, which may help you further your career.

In this article, we discuss what meeting etiquette is, why it's important to follow and tips for maintaining good business meeting etiquette.

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What is business meeting etiquette?

Business meeting etiquette refers to the standard of behavior expected in the workplace during meetings. Meeting etiquette, like regular business etiquette, encourages attendees to behave professionally and respectfully.

Business meeting etiquette includes behavior like being on time, listening without interrupting, not having your phone out and being prepared. Business meeting etiquette can change somewhat depending on the situation.

For example, for a more formal meeting in the office, it's considerate to provide an agenda. This isn't necessary for a more casual business meeting over dinner.

Related: A Guide to Business Etiquette

Why is business meeting etiquette important?

There are several reasons why meeting etiquette is important, including:

  • Improves communication: Business meeting etiquette promotes an atmosphere of mutual respect among people in the workplace, which facilities strong communication.

  • Increases productivity: The different aspects of business meeting etiquette, such as active listening, preparation and agendas, increase the efficiency with which meetings are run, increasing the productiveness of that time.

  • Improves relationships: Business meeting etiquette helps people feel respected within meetings, which translates into stronger workplace relationships.

Related: How To Host an Effective Staff Meeting (17 Do's and Don'ts)

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11 tips for good meeting etiquette

Follow these common rules for proper meeting etiquette:

1. Be punctual

Being on time for meetings shows maturity, professionalism and courtesy to the rest of the meeting attendees. Leaders want their meetings to run efficiently, so eliminating distractions associated with lateness is an important step in this process.

Outside of the workplace, arriving a bit late for social events or appointments may be fine, but in professional settings, it is usually expected participants arrive on time.

Coming a few minutes early is even better so you can sit down and get situated before the meeting begins. If you do find yourself running late to a meeting, give a simple apology to everyone, have a seat and focus on the discussion right away.

Related: 8 Tips for Being on Time To Work and Meetings

2. Come prepared

Many meeting organizers send out emails with a rundown of the agenda, especially if it's a meeting with a lot of people and several topics that the organizer wants to discuss. An agenda will ensure the meeting runs smoothly and efficiently.

They may also ask that attendees bring materials to take notes with, come with suggestions or ideas regarding a topic or complete an assignment before the meeting. Make sure you come fully prepared with anything the organizer requires.

Read more: How To Prepare for a Business Meeting

3. Dress professionally

Depending on the nature of your office, the appropriate attire may vary. Follow the dress code rules your office enforces for in-office meetings. If you are meeting a client outside of the office the same rules usually apply, but you may want to ask your manager what the appropriate attire is if you have uncertainties.

4. Speak loud enough

When you speak during the meeting make sure to speak loudly and clearly so everyone can hear you. This portrays confidence and makes you look more professional. It also ensures everyone hears your thoughts and can respond accordingly. Soft speaking can affect the meeting's efficiency if you need to repeat yourself or someone mishears you.

Related: How To Overcome Your Fear of Speaking Up

5. Actively listen and participate

Meeting productivity relies on participants listening well to others and actively participating in discussions. You could practice active listening by nodding or paraphrasing what the other person is saying to show understanding, expressing your concern or asking specific, probing questions.

In addition to showing the person that you respect their opinion and want to hear what they have to say, active listening helps you stay focused and offer more meaningful responses.

Related: Active Listening Skills: Definition and Examples

6. Take turns speaking

Business meetings sometimes create exciting and passionate conversations where everyone wants to give their input. The best thing to do is wait for your turn to speak and allow others to finish their thoughts before jumping into the conversation.

Follow any speaking rules the facilitator has, such as raising your hand. Also, write down your main points if you think you might forget what you want to say while waiting, but try to continue listening to the conversation while writing.

7. Follow the agenda

Staying on topic is good business etiquette because it reduces time wasted on tangents. Business meetings sometimes go off the agenda, but it's helpful to the facilitator if you stay on task and try to keep the meeting productive. If you can, lead the conversation back to the original topic if you notice it drifted to an unrelated subject.

Related: How To Write a Meeting Agenda: Tips, Template and Sample

8. Ask questions at the appropriate time

The best time to ask questions is during the presentation at opportune moments when your question is relevant to the presenter's information. Be courteous and wait for a break in their speech to raise your hand. They will also likely invite attendees to ask questions periodically during the presentation.

Try to avoid asking all of your questions at the very end when the meeting needs to wrap up. If you have unanswered questions at the end you could stay to ask them privately or send an email to the meeting leader.

Related: How To Improve Your Listening Skills in 10 Steps

9. Be attentive to your nonverbal cues

It's easy to get restless during long meetings. Try to avoid the following habits:

  • Tapping pens

  • Fidgeting

  • Swiveling your chair side to side

  • Tapping your feet

  • Rustling papers

  • Making quiet noises like humming or clicks

Though harmless when at your own desk, these behaviors can distract presenters and listeners and also may give them the impression you aren't interested.

10. Put away technology

Many people tend to keep their phones on the table during meetings, but this may turn into a distraction if it accidentally rings, buzzes or lights up. Turn off or silence your device, then put it away where it is no longer visible, such as in a purse, briefcase or jacket pocket.

You may want to bring paper and a pen to take notes and avoid the distraction of technology. However, if you need to refer to information on your laptop, check with the organizer to see if it's appropriate to bring it along.

Related: Pros and Cons of Using a Personal Phone for Work

11. Eat and drink appropriately

Normally water and coffee are acceptable to drink during meetings, but check if food is fine to bring. Often the smell of food and chewing sounds can distract others, so it's likely best to leave the food for after the meeting. If it's a lunch meeting, eat quietly and respectively. Also, always clean up after yourself and leave your seat the way you found it.

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