Meetings are an essential part of business, making meeting etiquette of high importance. Meetings are where important business interactions and transactions take place, as well as, where sales pitches and contract negotiations happen. In many ways, meetings are the lifeblood of the business world. That said, almost all of us have been to a bad meeting. Either the meeting was uninformative, awkward, or simply unprofessional. As a businessperson, one of the most impactful actions you can take is to fine-tune your meeting etiquette. 

Perhaps the most important part of meeting with a client for the first time is the impression you make. First impressions create a lasting image that frames how we see the people around us, and first impressions in business are no different. A number of factors go into how our clients see us, but maintaining this level of professionalism throughout your business relationship with customers and clients is essential to keep their respect. In fact, your meeting etiquette often says far more about you to your clients than your resume or even your prices.

In this article, we will go over some of the most important meeting etiquette tips. Keep this in mind before, during, and after your business meetings to make the most of your interactions with clients.

Dress the Part

Dress your best for business meetings. Dressing well shows you respect your client, their time, and their place of business. It also shows that you have self-respect and take your work seriously. Showing up underdressed conveys the message that you could be more invested in your work. If you seem unenthusiastic about what you do, clients are likely to wonder why they should care. 

Remember Your Manners

If customers and clients see you as rude, distracted, or thoughtless, they will form a negative opinion of you. Make sure to ask questions politely, adding “please” and “thank you” whenever appropriate. Stay attentive to everything your client says, as they can tell if you are paying attention. Absolutely do not fiddle with your phone or tablet, and make sure to keep eye contact much of the time. You need to express that your attention is undivided. If you are eating together, make sure you stay neat and tidy.

Stay Professional, But Friendly

Business meetings are not the time and place to become overly personal. Remaining professional by focusing on business rather than personal issues is paramount. Asking intrusive personal questions or talking at length about your personal life can make clients feel awkward. After all, they sat down, expecting a business meeting, not a personal one. Friendly banter, on the other hand, is a great way to eliminate any tension or apprehension as well as puts your clients at ease. Talking a bit about mutual interests and asking your clients to tell you anything about themselves they want you to know are great ways to break the ice. Being professional does not mean being stiff or uninviting; it simply means keeping your focus on the matters at hand. Combining that laser focus with a friendly demeanor is a powerful combination.

Arrive on Time

If you are hosting the meeting, make sure to be a few minutes early. Even a bit of delay can make clients grumble. It gives the impression that you think your time is more valuable than theirs. Delays inevitably happen, but an email, text, or phone call can keep a client from feeling like their time was wasted. If that is not possible, a true apology can go a long way to improve the situation.