Don’t Do These 7 Things In Meetings If You Want to Look Professional

By Chelsea Babin

Meetings, like taxes, are an ever present, unavoidable reality in almost every workplace. Whether you love meetings or hate them you should know there are a few major behavioral don’ts that could derail your career success. If you want to look professional in any meeting you’re required to attend don’t do these 7 things:

1. Arrive Late: Regardless of your reasons or excuses, arriving late to any professional function (including interviews, meetings, etc.) will show an inability to respect other people’s time. That’s a trait that simply doesn’t fly at most businesses! If you want to be as professional as possible make sure you’re getting to meetings a few minutes early and, if the time doesn’t work for you, let whoever is holding the meeting know in advance so they won’t be stuck waiting around for you.

2. Play Hooky: It’s possible that something more pressing will come up in your workday or in your personal life that will require you to miss a meeting, that’s fine! Just don’t play hooky. Make sure you give reasonable notice (at least an hour before the meeting begins is courteous) and explain why you’ll be absent in a concise, respectful manner. Also, if the content of the meeting is important to you make sure to ask a coworker who will be attending if you can borrow their notes or get a summary of what was discussed.

3. Interrupt the Speaker: Unless it’s a collaborative brainstorming meeting there’s probably one person or a few people who have planned out what they need to say. Because of this, you need to be careful not to interrupt the speaker or speakers at inopportune times. Most meetings, even if they are largely lecture style, will leave room for questions or suggestions at the end. Instead of blurting out your opinions and interrupting the flow of the meeting, make sure you read the room and understand if this is the kind of meeting where you can just speak up, where you need to raise your hand, or where you need to wait for the end.

4. Use Your Phone and Laptop: Some people pull out their phones and laptops in meetings to take notes. Other people pull out their phones and laptops in meetings for fun distractions like social media or games. Unfortunately, even if you fall into the former group, whoever is running the meeting may naturally interpret your phone and laptop usage as a sign of disrespect. If you want to take notes it’s much less distracting and much more professional to do it the old fashioned way: on paper with a pen.

5. Sit Back and Take No Notes: Speaking of taking notes, even if it’s not required you should probably do it. Sitting back in a meeting and taking no notes, asking no questions, or generally not contributing anything can make you look extremely checked out and unprofessional. Remain engaged in the meeting and keep your professional demeanor in tact by leaning slightly forward, maintaining occasional eye contact with whoever is speaking, and taking notes with a pen on paper.

6. Show Off: We’ve all worked with people who were mostly show and very little go or, to put it another way, they showed off in front of bosses but did very little work when their bosses weren’t around. Because this is a common behavioral issue you should be aware that asking too many questions or seeking too much attention for your accomplishments in meetings may make you look like a show off and not very professional. Finding the perfect balance between not contributing and showing off will vary depending on the meeting type and your company culture but it’s an important balance that you need to find and maintain.

7. Complain: No matter how tired, hungry, or frustrated you are you shouldn’t complain about during a meeting if you care at all about professionalism. No one wants to hang out with the office complainer anyways but it’s particularly disrespectful and unprofessional to whine about having to attend a meeting when someone has spent ample time preparing for that meeting and analyzing its necessity. Save your complaints for a later or, better yet, don’t voice them to anyone you work with at all!

Behaving professionally in a meeting is more than just a courtesy to whoever is holding the meeting, it’s a professional expectation. If you want to come off as a true professional don’t do these 7 things in any meeting you attend!