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A Refresher on Basic Business Meeting Etiquette

Now that we’re back to in-person meetings (some of the time) it’s a good idea to brush up on our basic business meeting etiquette.

Since the pandemic I’ve noticed a slight slip in certain business formalities. And that’s a shame, because a good ol’ fashioned face-to-face business meeting is a chance for each of us to shine.

My personal pet peeves may differ from your own. I don’t like it when:

  • My meeting partner texts or emails on their phone while I'm talking.

  • Someone severely under dresses for our meeting (under no circumstances are flip flops permissible in a business setting).

  • People are more than 15 minutes late. I’ll give you a 10-minute grace period, but anything longer than that is just being rude.


It pays to pay attention to the way we behave in a business setting — especially for small business owners who welcome every possible advantage we can get.

Use this primer to refresh on the basics of business meeting etiquette.

Give me some small talk

A little small talk goes a long way in setting the tone for a productive business meeting.

While it may seem pointless and sometimes silly, small talk does help all parties to relax and get comfortable. It’s jarring to me when someone “cuts to the chase.”

  • Keep small talk topics “safe” by speaking about things like weather and sports events.

  • Short and sweet is best and just a few minutes will do.

  • If you know someone has a life partner or children, it’s permissible to ask about their family.  But don’t pry; when in doubt wait for the other person to offer up personal information on their own.

  • Never talk about religion or politics. Especially Donald Trump.

Always be polite

Being polite means different things to different people, but to me basic politeness includes:

  • Opening a door for the other person.

  • Letting the other person speak before you do.

  • Offering a chair to the other person.

  • Actively listening and making eye contact.

  • Finishing the meeting on time.

  • Paying for the food and drinks (while being mindful of customers who can’t let a supplier buy their meal).

It’s a good idea to ask the other person when they'd like you to follow up on your meeting items, rather than force your own timeline on them.

Respect the time of your meeting partners

We all operate with the same 24 hours, and time is a valuable commodity. We win respect by respecting other peoples’ time and schedules.

  • Prepare an agenda to help organize the meeting. Read it and ask if anyone has any additional items.

  • Be on time for appointments. As I mentioned earlier, if someone is running 15 minutes late or more, they should call or message the meeting partner and offer to reschedule.

  • End a meeting at the agreed time — even if you must leave some business unfinished. You can get to it another time.

  • Don’t fill up the entire appointment with your own material. Leave some time for your meeting partner to ask questions or talk about what’s important to them.

Give generously

It doesn’t take much to win trust and respect by thinking about how you can help the other person — even if there’s no immediate sale on the table, or anything tangible to gain.

For example, your meeting partner may mention they’re looking to connect with someone who you know.  Offer to make an introduction and follow through with your promise.

I think practicing basic business etiquette goes a long way to creating a favorable first impression and sets us up for a long-term relationship.

Please feel free to add your own comments on this subject or share an experience of a meeting gone wrong.

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