Written by Hugo Heij
It's easy to overlook the importance of meeting etiquette and how seemingly harmless actions can have a bigger impact on those around you.
Have you ever phoned someone, and they answered the phone whispering if they can call you back because they are in a meeting? (Or do you recognise yourself in this? -> Read on!)
When this happens a few major errors in judgement are taking place. And I know, these are big words, so let me explain them to you.
By answering the phone, you lost connection with the person or people you are meeting with. You have made the conscious choice that answering the phone was more important than paying attention. This does not pay much respect to the people you are meeting with.
By answering the phone, you delayed the meeting, and you forced the other participants to spend more time in the meeting, because the meeting rhythm has been disturbed. Hijacking other people’s time. Ouch!
The fact you know someone was calling, meant you had it either ringing (oops, sorry. Forgot to put in on silent), or buzzing on the table (yes, other people do notice that and it distracts), or flashing in front of you (that is also being noticed!) or your smartwatch has notified you (congratulations with your new gadget). Whatever triggered you to answer the phone, meant that the meeting has been distracted and your call has prevailed over the bigger cause you are meeting for. What is your priority?
By answering the phone, you have given your caller the initial joy you answered, for it to be followed by a short question, ‘Can I call you back?’ This does not pay much respect to the person calling you either.
By answering the phone, you have robbed me from the opportunity to leave you a message or question, so you can think about the answer, before ringing back. This could potentially have saved us both time. Thanks!
When you are meeting somebody, please switch off your phone, or leave it in the car or in your bag. If I call you in that moment, I am absolutely fine to leave you a message or for you to call me back at your own leisure. I won’t be upset, feel left out, or think I am being ignored.
Please pay respect to those you are meeting with. Give them your full and undivided attention. They deserve it, and it will save you time!
And if you are expecting that extremely important phone call; notify the meeting in advance. We all have those phone calls from time to time.
If you call me and you get my voicemail, please don’t take it personally. It’s not that you are not important. It’s not because I don’t want to speak to you. It’s not that I am ignoring you.
It’s simply, because I choose, at that moment, to give my full attention, to the person I am meeting with. And yes, that is sometimes myself. Just leave me a short message, and I will call you back.
In Episode 081 of the Fluid Business Podcast, Hugo Heij discusses meeting etiquette in more depth with Andy Sleet.
FBP 022: Meeting rhythms
FBP 065: Rules of a team meeting