Category Archives: Meetings

Etiquette Dilemmas Created by Coronavirus

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We are now in the sixth month of the Corona Pandemic and etiquette dilemmas abound. People have begun to venture out into the world while others are still sheltering at home. Businesses are slowly and with a tinge of trepidation beginning to reopen. Some organizations have found they can operate efficiently with their employees working from home. Safety, health and welfare remain top of mind.

The world we are coming back to is far different and more socially confusing than the one we lived in pre-pandemic. It is fraught with awkward moments and challenging situations. If you were uncertain of how to conduct yourself in business and daily life five months ago, you are finding this period even more perplexing.

Everything has changed–from how we meet and greet others to how we interact with our colleagues. We are used to handshakes and hugs. No more of those. We are accustomed to sitting down at work to discuss an issue with a coworker. Forget that. We don’t go to meetings anymore—they come to us. If you are late for an appointment, you can’t blame getting stuck in traffic unless you tripped over your kids’ toys trying to get to your desk. You used to know what to wear to work. Now that you are at home, how should you dress for that Zoom meeting?

When we go out into the world, we wear a face mask. When we encounter another person, we sometimes have trouble deciding “who is that masked man?” It’s hard to understand what people are saying when masks muffle the sound. To me, the most troubling thing is figuring out if that person is smiling or not. And are you sure that you are six feet apart?

Restaurants are now allowing in-house dining. When local laws mandate that we wear face masks in public, how does that work in a dining situation? You can’t eat with a mask on so now what?

There are clear answers to most of those questions.

About the handshake: The easiest way to deal with that is to simply say to the person you are greeting, “Please excuse me for not shaking your hand, but I am not comfortable doing that during this time.” Some people are doing the elbow bump, but it is usually done more in fun and in casual settings. It is definitely not a formal business greeting. Only time will tell whether the handshake will survive.

When you can’t sit down with your coworker in person, there are options. The old-fashioned phone comes to mind. If you prefer to see that person, arrange for a Zoom session, Facetime or one of the other communication platforms. Be kind and don’t surprise your colleague with Facetime if they were not expecting you. You wouldn’t go to their house without alerting them that you were coming. Same thing with video calls.

What’s the answer to what to wear for a Zoom meeting? Unless you are meeting with a high-level executive, there is no need for formal business attire. A clean pressed shirt or a nice blouse will do. Some people are now claiming to have a “Zoom shirt” or “Zoom blouse”. It hangs over the back of their chair or on a hook behind the door. It goes on when the call comes in and off when the call is over. If you are still wearing your pajama bottoms, don’t stand up during the call.

As for those face masks at a restaurant, you need to wear one into the restaurant and while waiting for your table. Wear it when you sit down and while ordering. Only remove it when your food or beverage arrives. Common sense would say that you put your mask back on as you exit.

Little remains the same as it was pre-pandemic. Be patient and be considerate. Keep in mind that others are probably just as confused as you are. As we hear so often “We are all in this together.”

Lydia Ramsey is a Savannah-based business etiquette expert. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com.

The Etiquette of Virtual Meetings

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We’re living in a new reality where “business as usual” means gathering remotely in virtual meetings. Companies, large and small, need to maintain clear, concise communication with employees regardless of physical location. As long as “shelter-in-place”, or as we Southerners say “hunker-down” rules continue, business professionals have to adjust to what has become known as the “new abnormal”. Although physical offices will likely always exist, the future of work is flexible and that means being equipped to manage employee interaction with a dispersed workforce. Now, more than ever, is the time to be communicating with your employees frequently, ensuring they are safe, secure, and productive amidst the chaos. It means an explosion of virtual meetings.

What has become of all those meetings we used to attend? They still exist, but we no longer have to leave home or the office to be present. Meetings are coming to us. They are invading our homes and what we have up till now taken for granted was our safe space. Physical communication has become virtual communication. Whether companies are using Zoom, GoToMeeting, WebEx or some other platform, these new technologies are the norm. As always, we get the technology first along with its accompanying tutorials and instructions for how to use it before we learn the etiquette rules that apply.

What is the etiquette for virtual meetings?

How are we supposed to behave in this new environment? There is an upside and a downside to our ability to hold meetings with anybody, anytime, anyplace. The positive aspect is that we no longer have to factor in travel time to get to meetings. Wherever you are, you are there. The negative aspect is wherever you are, you are there. No escaping, no excuses. Here a few issues that you need to consider when preparing for or attending a virtual meeting.

Be aware of your surroundings

Your home office could be anywhere in your home since you may not have had a dedicated office space before this pandemic. If you are set up in your bedroom, make up your bed and pick up your clothes before you get online. As your mother would say, “Clean up your room.” The same applies if you have an office space all to yourself in the house. Keep it neat at least as far as what your webcam allows others can see.

Dress appropriately.

Having the freedom to dress more comfortably at home does not mean showing up in your pj’s. You are at work; you just happen to be at home. You need to present a professional appearance. And that means head to toe in case you need to move around during the session.

Establish rules for your household while you are attending a virtual meeting.

 If you have the luxury to close off your office, that’s all the better. However, not everyone does. Maintain as much control as you can over your environment. That includes family, friends and pets. Consider posting a notice on your door that says “Do not disturb. Meeting in progress.” Okay, the dog probably can’t read.

Mute your microphone when you are not speaking.

 Unless you live alone, your house may be noisy. Try not to allow your noises to be a distraction to others in the meeting.

Be aware that you are always “on” during these virtual sessions.

Think “Candid Camera” if you can recall that old TV show. People can see your every move and facial expression. Some of those online may be paying more attention to your body language than you think.

As a friend of mine pointed out recently, we may be in danger of being “Zoomed-out”. Could it be time to rethink how much added pressure we are putting on ourselves and others with our virtual meetings?

Contact Lydia to schedule a virtual training session.  All of her presentations are available as live or recorded webinars. Learn how she can help you and your employees add the polish that builds profits through tough times. Contact her at 912-604-0080 or visit her website: LydiaRamsey.com

 

 

 

Punctuality: A Must for the Polished Professional

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Punctuality came to mind last week as I was racing down the road to get to an appointment, I had a sudden revelation. This is not uncommon for me. It has become a regular occurrence. I am never late–well, almost never, but I often arrive at meetings or appointments with only moments to spare.

Living in beautiful Savannah, Georgia, I am aware of what we call “Savannah time.” Few people arrive anywhere early. Most show up exactly at the appointed hour. Others wander in at their leisure, with an apology or an excuse, but late all the same. I feel myself on the verge of becoming one of the band of late-comers.

I tend to think I can get one more thing done before I leave for the meeting or event. For example, if the phone should ring just as I am headed for the door, I can’t resist answering it.  Good old-fashioned curiosity. By the time I get in my car and check the dashboard clock, I realize that if I am lucky and all the traffic lights work in my favor, I’ll be on time.

In a recent blog I wrote about developing good habits for 2018. The habit I need to work on is joining the punctual people. That doesn’t mean arriving just in the nick of time. It means following the advice of the late Vince Lombardi who said, “If you are fifteen minutes early, you are on time. If you are on time, you are late. If you are late, don’t bother to show up.” In Wisconsin they call that “Lombardi Time.”

From now on my goal is to arrive fifteen minutes early. Certainly no more than that because I don’t want to intrude on those setting up the meeting or managing the event.

Punctuality is critical to good business relationships. People who are late send a message that they don’t value other people’s time or that they have more important things to do.

Think how you are viewed when you don’t make the effort to be on time. Do you want to be seen as inconsiderate or self-important? That certainly won’t help you grow your business or represent your organization in a professional manner.

Here a few tips to help you with your punctuality and to keep you on “Lombardi time”.

  • Don’t stop to take the last phone call. If the call is important, the caller will leave you a message.
  • Have everything you need for the meeting or the event conveniently placed so you aren’t scrambling around trying to find things—like your keys—at the last minute.
  • Decide how long it will take you to get to the venue and add some extra time. Allow for traffic jams, road construction and other unexpected occurrences.
  • If you are not 100% sure where you are going, do a practice run whenever possible. No one will be impressed with your tale of how you got lost. You probably know by now that you can’t totally trust your GPS.
  • If the worst should happen and you arrive at the meeting late, quietly take a seat. This is no time to interrupt to make your apologies and launch into a lengthy explanation about why you were tardy.
  • Check the agenda to see what items have already been covered. The late-comer who interrupts to ask about an issue that was previously discussed is not appreciated.

Join me in vowing to be on “Lombardi Time” from now on. Old habits are hard to break, but what better time to start than early in a new year?

This article first appeared in the Savannah Morning News.

 

 

 

Etiquette for Effective Meetings

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business meetingOh no, not another meeting! How many times have you heard that cry? Every business, regardless of its size, has meetings.  They are a necessary part of getting things done.  If managed in the right way, they can be very effective.  Handled poorly, they can be major time wasters and harmful to productivity.

Good meetings allow people in an organization or on a team to learn what everyone else is doing, what each person’s responsibilities are and what progress is being made.  They can be empowering to individuals, helpful in developing leadership skills and morale boosters for the company.

Bad meetings, those without a focus, a clear agenda or proper planning, can undermine morale and create dissatisfaction.

When meetings get off track, here are seven simple steps for effective meetings to bring them back.

Be prepared.  Meetings are work so work on them.  The more preparation that goes into a meeting, the more effective it will be.

Have an agenda.  The agenda does not need to be lengthy or complicated.  A listing of the items to be addressed and by whom is sufficient.  The key is to get the agenda out ahead of time so everyone comes prepared. If you can’t decide on an agenda, could be you don’t need a meeting.

Pay attention to the time.  Start and end when you say you will.  Assigning time to each agenda item and having someone responsible for watching the clock is a helpful way to stay on schedule.

Have fewer meetings.  Consider if you can get the work done without a meeting.  You may be able to handle the issue with a phone call or e-mail.  When quantity decreases, quality will increase.

Carefully choose the participants.  It is important to have all points of view and a variety of participants, but be sure that everyone at the meeting has a good reason to be there.

Stay focused.  If the discussion starts to wander from the agenda, bring it back to the business at hand as quickly as possible.

Get feedback.  You may want to provide an evaluation form at the end of the meeting or if the group is small, you may find it easier to poll the participants. Ask what went well, what went wrong and what can be done to improve the next meeting.

Whether you are the leader or a participant, everyone involved in the meeting has a responsibility for seeing that it goes well.  It is not complicated; it simply requires commitment from all.

Here’s to effective meetings,

The holiday season is fast approaching so now, not later, is the time to get your copy of my newest eBook, Business Etiquette for the Holidays – Building Relationships Amid the Perils of the Season. It is available on my website, Manners That Sell, or on Amazon in the Kindle Store.

professional speaker

Photo from Savannah magazine

Hire Lydia to work with your staff to improve customer service and employee relations through the use of those priceless and often over-looked soft skills called manners. Lydia is the “unstuffy” business etiquette expert who helps individuals and organizations add the polish that builds profits. We’re talking about your bottom line here.

Since 1996, countless people have benefited from her wisdom through keynotes, seminars and conference breakout sessions.  Her Southern charm and sense of humor have made her a sought-after speaker and consultant.

Based in Savannah, Georgia, Lydia is available for national, regional and local speaking and training engagements. She has suitcase; will travel.

Contact her via email at lydia@lydiaramsey.com or call 912-604-0080. Sign up for her free monthly newsletter and visit her website, lydiaramsey.com.

More Business Meeting Tips!

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1. Choose the location of your business meeting carefully.  Consider accessibility, parking, travel time and driving directions
2. Control the ambience of your business meeting location by paying attention to lighting and temperature and by limiting outside distractions.
3. Consider offering refreshments during your business meeting.  People are much happier when there is food.  It’s just good hospitality.
4. End every business meeting with an evaluation.  Ask what went well, what could be changed and commit to making improvements.

Business Meeting Tips Part I

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  1. Business meetings provide the opportunity to interact with clients, colleagues and others with whom you do business.  
  2. Evaluate the purpose of your business meeting. If you can’t find a good reason to have it, maybe you shouldn’t.  
  3. Don't ask people to attend a business meeting if you can accomplish the same goals with e-mail or a conference call.
  4. Have an agenda for your business meeting but be flexible.  It’s okay to digress if more important issues arise.
  5. Involve everyone during a business meeting.  Don’t make statements, ask questions.  Don’t make objections, ask more questions.

Stay tuned for Part II!