14 essential tips for business etiquette

Good business practice often depends on establishing and maintaining good relationships. Those relationships in turn can be strengthened by good manners, often codified as etiquette. Etiquette, from the French meaning ticket or label, can be a ticket to better business relationships.

The basic rule for etiquette in any situation is to treat everyone with due respect and consideration, regardless of their rank. How does that apply more specifically in the business meeting setting?

Business Insider reminds us that “it’s important that you conduct yourself in a respectful and professional manner among your coworkers, bosses, and current or prospective clients.” Here are a few tips, mostly based on Barbara Pachter’s book, The Essentials of Business Etiquette.

1. Mingle with others before the meeting starts

During the meeting is not the time to wonder, “Who is that guy talking, and what’s his job anyway?” If you know roughly how everyone fits into the big picture, you may know how to weigh their comments.

2. Be concise

Many business meetings are dreaded because some just can’t say what they mean in as few words as possible. Do this, and your contribution will be appreciated.

3. Stand when you’re being introduced to someone

It’s not about trying to be important, but you simply won’t be noticed if you remain seated when you meet someone.

4. Be on time

Writer and editor Jason Gillikin quite rightly notes that few habits irritate co-workers like people who are chronically late for meetings or frequently leave early. Avoid any indication of poor time-management or prioritisation skills. Habitually late people will not earn the respect of co-workers or superiors. It’s their time you’re wasting. Most experts suggest arriving at least 15 minutes early.

5. Sit appropriately

Adjust your chair so that you’re at the same height as everyone else at the table. And watch what you do with your legs. Crossing your legs can be very distracting and is simply inappropriate for a professional setting.

6. Dress appropriately

Make sure your attire fits well within the dress code for this particular meeting. Your wardrobe choices can enhance your professional reputation. Getting it wrong can make you memorable, but not in a good way.

7. Come prepared

Know the purpose of the meeting and be ready to make meaningful contributions. Have questions ready—but only if they’re on topic.

8. Have a strong agenda

If you’re the one running the meeting, stay on track. Rather than just aiming for a finish time, allot times for each item to be discussed.

9. Listen

Kyra Sheahan, writing for the Houston Chronicle, suggests employing active listening skills, such as maintaining eye contact, and showing the speaker that you are paying attention. Don’t embarrass yourself by asking the questions that have been answered by previous speakers.

10. Understand the unwritten speaking rules

When you speak, be heard, not apologetic. And speak only when you really have something to add. Don’t interrupt others. Sheahan adds that you should never raise your voice in a professional environment, keeping your tone as neutral as possible.

11. Don’t eat

Unless it’s part of the design of the meeting, don’t consume more than coffee or water. It’s messy and distracting. And—do we have to say this?—never chew gum.

12. Don’t fiddle!

Few things are more annoying than nervous habits like tapping a pen, rustling papers, or swinging back and forth in your chair.

13. Put your phone away

Even if it’s on silent, having it light up or start vibrating on the table will distract those next to you.

14. Don’t save all your questions for the end

If you have a question, raise it when that topic is on the table. If you wait until the end, everyone else is planning to leave, and they won’t be focused on your issue.

Treating others decently and with respect in every other area of life will grant you dividends in your business dealings too. You will gain respect and others will want to deal with you.