Company meetings – it’s rare to look forward to one, yet you can’t avoid them. While company meetings come in all different “shapes and sizes” differentiated by their duration, attendance, purpose, and frequency, there is an underlying necessity for professional conduct. Although this may seem easy to navigate for the lifers of industry, meeting etiquette is now challenged by the ever-evolving state in which companies can be run.
The pandemic introduced to the typical workplace a new environment of remote work, suddenly allowing employees to wake up, grab a cup of coffee or a similar morning pick-me-up, and roll up to their desks, still sporting their pajamas. For almost two years now, the premise of getting up early, donning business attire, and commuting to the office has become a thing of the past for many, while others are attempting to familiarize themselves with the routine again. Through this divide, it’s clear to see where expectations for conduct in company meetings can vary, sometimes on extreme ends of the spectrum.
To help remedy this, we want to lay out the Do’s and Don’ts of company meeting conduct and some tips for best practices to keep you looking and performing your best with your peers and higher-ups.
What To Expect And What NOT to Say During a Company Meeting
Company meetings come in different forms, each with different yet similar purposes. These purposes can range from collaboration on a project/effort to a general sharing of information for the team at large to an intimate tête-à-tête regarding sensitive or “sticky” material. One commonality running through the varying meetings is the need for professionalism in interactions.
Typical meetings should have an introduction to the purpose and topic being discussed, a body in which the main points or bulk of the “presentation” of information is made (this is where the collaboration on ideas would occur too), and a conclusion in which questions can be asked, countering points can be made, or concerns can be stated. During the three phases of the meeting, you will want to make sure you look confident, well spoken, and that you can articulate yourself in a way that your colleagues will listen and give validity to what you say (that means avoid using the 4 phrases in the next section).
Remember, meetings are intended for collaboration, idea sharing, generalized updates, and to act as a platform for colleagues to connect and ask for help. When a colleague is willing to openly discuss, the last thing you should do is immediately shut them down by telling them what they are saying is wrong. Not only will this look negative on you as a team player, this will also deter other colleagues from willingly collaborating with you, regardless of your qualifications.
Instead of saying “you’re wrong” try finding a solution that points to the incorrect part of the statement, rather than at the person. For instance, if your colleague incorrectly quoted projection figures, do not call out your coworker by saying “you’re wrong, the numbers are…”, instead, say something along the lines of “can you show me where you pulled that information? In my last reference of the data, I thought the figures were XYZ and I want to make sure we are referencing the same data set.”
“That’s not my job” or “I don’t have the time for that”
Again, this goes back to what was described in Key Phrase 1 – upholding the appearance of being a team player and maintaining professionalism in your interactions. There’s a high likelihood you will be assigned a task/project that is outside your area of expertise, adds too much to your workload, requires additional training and guidance, etc.
This is just part of business. However, rather than saying you’re too busy, the task is beyond your job description, or the assignment should go to someone else, the best thing to do is note the assignment, then discuss the task one-on-one with your manager at a later time. In doing so, you avoid looking as if you do not want to contribute to the team's success by pawning the work off to someone else. If the task really is beyond your expertise or would cause performance dropping in other areas, the conversation with your manager will allow you to work jointly in realigning expectations and task management by priority.
Keeping in mind the purpose of company meetings is to collaborate, share information, etcetera, you'll want to present your ideas, solutions, and updates assuredly to keep the focus on what you are sharing rather than others’ perceptions of you. Using the words “think” or “might” instills a sense of an unconfident presentation of information.
Replacing these words with “I believe” and “I know” or similar definitive phrases will show conviction in what you are saying, making others more likely to listen. Not only can this conviction in what you are saying apply to meetings, you can carry over the confidence into other areas of business.
Using the word “can’t”
Similar to using confidence-lacking phrases, using “can’t” or saying that your team “can’t” do something tells the larger team that you and your team cannot perform. You do not want to give off the impression that you are incapable or unwilling to do something that is requested. Instead of immediately countering to a request by saying you “can’t,” you can take an approach much like that used in Key Phrase 2 – note the request and discuss the specifics with your manager later. Whether you need additional training, or you need to pass work to a peer to better balance your workload, you do not want to say you can’t do something. Always try to find a way to solution or work around the concerns.
What You Should Say During a Company Meeting
Now that we covered what not to say and how to rephrase, let’s get into what should be said and done in company meetings. A good rule of thumb is if there’s nothing to be said, then say nothing.
Not always are meetings for the passing of information between parties, and not always is what you do related to what is being discussed. Sometimes, it’s okay to take in the information being presented, then move on with your day once the meeting concludes.
If there’s a particularly “sticky” or intimate topic being discussed, a witty comeback is unnecessary and won’t get you any brownie points with your colleagues. These topics, if you must speak on them, should be approached with care for the other parties involved. Think on what you’re saying, think about who the audience is, and if you’re unsure what the reaction may be, it’s best you keep it to yourself.
Finally, if you’re unsure of a word’s validity (this means you don’t know if it’s an actual word or not), you’re better off not using the word. The last thing you want to do is use a fake word and have everyone reminiscing on it rather than listening to the point you’re trying to make.
When in doubt in meetings – be confident, consider your audience and the purpose of the meeting, and think before you speak so what you say is constructive rather than reactive.