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Polish Your Formal Meeting Manners

Advancement professionals are often asked to make presentations or represent university leadership at formal meetings such as those conducted by the school’s board of trustees, alumni or foundation boards, community non-profit organizations, or local government. Presenting yourself and your school with polished meeting manners goes a long way toward establishing credibility. Here’s how to project a professional image when you are attending a meeting.

Arrive on time in business attire (suits for both men and women), prepared for the topics to be discussed. Review any background materials, including minutes of the previous meeting, that were distributed in advance. Familiarize yourself with the names of board members. If you are making remarks or giving a presentation, plan and rehearse what you will say. Have your papers and relevant materials neatly organized in a folio so you don’t have to dig for them. It is considerate to give your business card to the meeting secretary so that your name and title can be accurately recorded in the minutes.

If you are a guest or newcomer to the group, make your presence known by introducing yourself to the meeting chairperson or planner. He or she should indicate where you are to sit. If not, ask before taking a seat. Place your computer bag, tote, or purse on the floor beside your chair (never on the meeting table).  Silence your cell phone and put it out of sight. Peruse the agenda so that you know when it will be your turn to speak. Introduce yourself to others and make light conversation with the people seated beside you until the meeting begins. Don’t arrive with a to-go cup of coffee, water bottle, or food in hand. Doing so lacks polish and hints that you don’t trust your host to offer refreshments.

If you are making a presentation that requires audio visual equipment, arrive early so that you have time to test it. Avoid computer compatibility problems by bringing your own laptop, connector cables, and your own remote. Always have a copy of your show on a thumb drive not only as a backup, but so that it can be given to the AV techs in the event all shows are being run from a house computer. Test all Internet or Wi-Fi connections if they are essential to your show. Remember that your computer may have to be signed-on to a secure network in advance.

When it is your turn to speak, take your tablet, laptop, or notes to the podium. If you’re using written notes, carry them in an attractive portfolio. Don’t place them on the podium in advance because other speakers may need room to spread out their things and you run the risk of them being accidentally being picked up by another speaker when he or she leaves the lectern. Respect others by confining your remarks to the amount of time you have been assigned.

During the meeting, keep attention focused on the purpose at hand by refraining from texting, checking e-mail, or doodling.

If no refreshments are offered, don’t ask for them. When beverages are served in cans, pour the contents into a glass before drinking. Keep your seat during the meeting and keep your place at the meeting table free from litter. Place dirty cups and trash on a side table (if one has been provided) during an appropriate break in the proceedings.

Don’t interrupt others or comment on everything that is said. Organize your thoughts before speaking. If you disagree with something that has been said, do so politely and avoid credibility-damaging outbursts of anger.

When the meeting ends, thank the chairperson before you leave. Follow up promptly on promises or assignments.