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Louise Elerding: Bringing manners to the board room

You’ve Got Manners

Posted: July 29, 2009 10:33 p.m.
Updated: July 30, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Do you welcome, or try to avoid, attending business meetings? If you have not had good experiences in this arena, then you are likely not eager to spend your time this way.

If everyone attending and planning meetings, did so with Boardroom Manners in mind, we could be pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Being manner-aware regarding business meetings can make a positive difference. At times, business and board meetings can have the reputation of being overly lengthy, disorganized, and off-target. One solution to having efficient and effective meetings is by being considerate of all of the details that go into the structuring and participation of a meeting.

If you are the leader or chairperson of the meeting, select a time that the majority of the participants can attend with ease, and notify everyone at least two weeks in advance.

Customarily, Mondays and Fridays are not first choices. People will contribute more when they are in a good and energized frame of mind.

Establish a reputation of your meeting being a safe haven for open and candid discussion.

No one is ever made wrong, and no idea is bad or silly. It is the responsibility of the leader to keep conflicts at a minimum and to steer the conversation away from discord or judgment. Set and keep a positive tone at all times.

Scheduling breaks is very helpful. People will return to the conference table from the drinking fountain, restroom visits, and taking important phone calls, - with a clear and engaged head for business.

When calling the meeting to adjournment, acknowledge the participants who deserve credit, and to those for their attendance and contributions.

Successful meetings are great opportunities to interact with co-workers and colleagues and learn how other people think, process, problem solve, brainstorm, and function. Besides personal benefits, this can provide more doors to open in your professional future.

Here's a Quick-Tip outline for a well-mannered meeting:

n Come prepared: Know the agenda, the purpose, any details that were forwarded to you earlier. Make notes of ideas you'd like to comment on. Bring a pen and notebook. All of this is in consideration of helping the meeting run in a timely manner.

n Be more than punctual: Do not wait until the final moment to arrive. Come early so that the meeting may begin on time, and end on time - for the sake of everyone.

n Placement: Be aware if places are assigned, and where the best place for you to sit will be. Usually the two seats on either side of the leader are the most significant.

n Store accessories: Find a place to put your purse, briefcase, laptop, manuals, etc. None of these should go on the conference table. Be aware of people next to you if placing these items on the floor.

n Fidgeting: Tapping pens, flipping paperclips, pulling rubber bands, making any distracting noises, causes people to lose focus and become somewhat annoyed. Be quiet-polite.

n Cell-phone savvy: Turn off all cell phones, and only use the vibrating switch if you are expecting a truly urgent call. If you do need to lift the phone, remove yourself from the room completely.

n Body posture: Propping your head in your hand is sending the message that you are tired or bored. Sitting up straight without a slouch looks like you are involved and paying attention.

Feet on the floor is the best place for them and crossing your legs or knees can often look way too casual.

You can best decide on the ‘ formality climate' of the meeting. One sign of resistance or hostility is the arms crossed in front of you. Avoid this stance, and you will be communicating openness and approachability.

n Team: The repeated slogan "There is no ‘I' in team" has merit. Keep a good level of generous thinking, enthusiasm, and inclusive thinking.

n Good image: Be dressed appropriately for the professional level of the meeting. This shows respect to your peers and other authority figures - and most importantly to yourself. If ties are worn, keep yours on.

Only if the leader removes his and invites you to do the same, will you take it off. Wear nothing distracting, either by sheerness or tightness of fabrics, to jewelry which is clankey and noisy or too showy. Be sure shoes are in good repair - no worn out heels and have a good polish.

n Positive language: Frame ideas in a constructive way - and respond to others' perspectives the same way.

You can use the ‘we' approach rather than singling any one person out for a negative point. When there are people of high rank at your meetings, be sure to know ahead of time how to address them.

n Patience: Allow people to finish their sentence or thought before jumping in with your own.

Never interject your opposing position before the person has finished their thought. Give recommendations rather than orders.

Be the leader with the reputation of hosting business and board meetings that attract people in, rather than repel.

Let it be known that your meetings pride themselves in being good-manner based, and jam-packed with success.

Louise Elerding is a manners, etiquette, and personal appearance coach, and the author of "You've Got Manners!" - an illustrated series of children's books. For information on Table Manners classes held at the Salt Creek Grille in Valencia, and to submit questions for the "Ask Louise' column, call 800-326-8953 or email Website:


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