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Ask Sue
A Weekly Q&A Column About Professionalism, Etiquette and Problems in the Workplace
by Sue Morem

Meeting Etiquette

Dear Sue: I meet with folks everyday. A few folks that I meet with do not know common courtesy guidelines for meetings. I have one person, in particular, who constantly interrupts me. I get very frustrated and have asked this person, very calmly, to let me finish. I have asked in several ways, for this person to stop interrupting me. Before I get frustrated, I try to forewarn everyone that I need to have the meeting respectful and courteous, with no interruptions. My position relies on the information I obtain from these folks.

Do you have any tips that I can print out and have everyone agree to before I have a meeting?

I really would love some professional comebacks that I can use when folks interrupt me.


Sue Says: There are guidelines for effective meetings and a code of conduct to follow; however, these guidelines are often implied rather than clearly communicated. Running a meeting with the assumption that everyone understands what is expected does not assure they do.

Your best bet may be to create your own code of conduct with the group of people you meet with. Consider starting your next meeting by getting everyone involved in creating and agreeing upon a set of guidelines to follow in order to make the most of every meeting.

Get out the flip chart and generate ideas; be specific and clear about each guideline and make sure everyone agrees to adhere to them. Have copies made and distributed to each person in the group and then review the guidelines, which should be posted, at the start of every meeting.
Some guidelines you might consider including:

  • Begin and end on time. Everyone in attendance is responsible for arriving on time and for keeping things moving so that the meeting ends on time.
  • Follow the agenda. Create an agenda and distribute to all participants (preferably ahead of time) and stick to only what is on the agenda.
  • Turn off all cell phones, pagers and, depending on the nature of your meeting, you might include computers, or ban them from meetings if not needed.
  • Speak one person at a time and listen when others are talking. Do not dominate the conversation, interrupt, participate in side conversations or make unnecessary comments.
  • Stay on task and on the topic being discussed. Donít bring up other, non related issues or get off purpose.
  • Hold questions and comments until the end of the meeting or other specified time.

Once you have an agreed upon code of conduct, it should be easier to deal with those who are not following it. Creating guidelines and adding structure to your meetings will benefit everyone. However, you may still encounter individuals who continue to interrupt. If it happens, remain calm and simply restate the agreed upon code of conduct. It is a good idea to determine in advance what you will do if someone becomes disruptive. As you create the guidelines discuss (with the group) how to deal with people who fail to cooperate. You may decide to have someone else handle a problem if you are running the meeting, or find some other way of dealing with problems when they arise.

I hope this helps to get you started. Let me know how it goes!

Sue Morem is a professional speaker, trainer and syndicated columnist. She is author of the newly released 101 Tips for Graduates and How to Gain the Professional Edge, Second Edition. You can contact her by email at or visit her web site at

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