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Why we need to care about meeting etiquette

You’re probably thinking “why a blog post on meeting etiquette, surely everyone knows how to behave in a meeting?”
Sadly, the truth is I see a lot of the fundamentals ignored and the worrying thing is, it’s getting worse.

Let’s start with what I’d class as the most important aspect of a meeting – paying attention. Sounds simple, right? Well it is, but so many people are getting it wrong! 

In my opinion, standard meeting etiquette requires attendees to listen to the presenter, or direct focus to the individual speaking. Hardly groundbreaking stuff as it’s just common decency to give someone your attention when they are speaking. 

However, more and more frequently in meetings when someone is addressing the room, I witness others getting distracted by looking at a phone or laptop screen. By this I don’t mean they are viewing relevant material to support the subject. This is people reading and responding to messages, emails and even browsing social media. When did this become acceptable??

Our dependency on smart phones is a major contributor to this problem. You hear startling facts such as people are checking their phones every 12 minutes on average. I can relate, I’m always checking my phone. But to caveat, this is on my own time and certainly not in a meeting. 

This problem appears to be getting worse with each generation. I’d guess that Millennials were the first generation to start this culture of sitting in meetings and working away on laptops, half paying attention and half working through their ‘to do’ list. These individuals often display a rebellious undertone in their attitude, typically as they’ve being asked to come to a meeting when they feel they’re too busy to attend. Personally, I’ve always viewed this as rude. In my opinion, either come to the meeting, pay attention and participate, or don’t come. Even if the meeting segment isn’t directly relevant to you, you may be able to add value or learn something new. It’s also important to switch off from distractions rather than trying to multi-task.

Some of the things I’ve witnessed from Generation Z simply takes my breath away. Honestly, I’ve seen instances of ‘gen zen’ in meetings taking selfies, sending snap chat’s, sniggering at messages, blatantly just not paying attention to the meeting. It’s like their attention span has evolved to be so short, they need a social media ‘hit’ as stimulus before they can continue to concentrate. But as my chin hits the floor and I wait for a scathing assault from their superior, it never arrives. Others don’t seem to bat an eyelid. The most worrying thing is that as this happens more frequently, it seems to be more accepted by others.
*Disclaimer, I’m not saying all Generation Z are rude and have an attention deficit, just that all these examples I’m referring to happened to be from this generation.*

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for technology during meetings, but to support the meeting not distract attention from it. Perhaps I have such a strong opinion on this given my agency background, where client service is vital. We always strive to give a good impression, represent the agency to the best of our ability and make sure our clients understand we are vested in them and the campaign. We know that meeting etiquette is important in building solid relationships. However, even if I was dealing with a supplier, I’m adamant my behaviour would be the same and I’d treat them with equal respect. I firmly believe everyone should behave this way.

From an agency perspective, it’s also vital that we get the most out of our meetings. That’s why we carefully plan agendas, assign a member of the team to take notes, arrive on time and come well prepared. Then we follow up with contact reports to make sure the actions of the meeting have been assigned, to move the project/campaign forward. Again, basics of client meetings.

In a world where general attitudes are becoming more relaxed and poor behaviour universally accepted, it’s important for agencies to make sure that we keep our processes instilled in the team. One thing is for sure, if you have a meeting with a member of Cunning Plan team, we’ll give you our full attention.