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A Post-Zoom Guide to Meeting Etiquette

UMD Career, Leadership Coach Shares 6 Tips for Being Present in Person—or Taking a Pass

By Karen Johnson

Illustration of bored meeting participants

In-person meetings are back—and a UMD business researcher has tips for making them as useful as they can be (even if you can't do something else off-screen).

Illustration by iStock

The return to more in-person meetings has made it clear to some of us: Playing Wordle at work has become harder.

After countless Zoom, Google Meet or Microsoft Teams gatherings over the past two years, when we could surreptitiously do other work or entertain ourselves off-screen, maybe we could use a refresher on more polite and productive alternatives to tedium.

Rachel Loock, associate director of Executive MBA Career Coaching, Programming and Outreach at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, says plan A is to tactfully get out of unnecessary meetings. If that fails, she advises trying to get more out of them:

Ask whether you really need to be there. If you’re being tagged to attend a regular meeting that you don’t think is a good use of your time, check in with the meeting coordinator, Loock says. Offer to email updates or other important information to the group beforehand. After the meeting, connect with the organizer to see whether you missed anything. But, she says: “Before you decline the meeting, be sure you check in with your supervisor to see if he or she has a reason to want you there.”

Be a good participant. When you do click “accept” on a meeting invite, arrive ready to be engaged. Review the agenda in advance and prepare items to update the group.

Don’t needlessly contribute. “Don’t just share business-as-usual updates or reiterate points that have already been made,” Loock says. Bring things to the group that you need help with or its contributions on, or information that others would find helpful to their jobs.

Don’t check out. Staying engaged can be challenging, especially in large, long meetings. “Take notes if it helps you focus on what’s being said,” Loock says.

Put the devices away. Force yourself to put your cellphone and laptop aside so you won’t be tempted and distracted. “It can look unprofessional if you’re looking at your phone, texting or typing an email,” Loock says.

Step out if you must. If a situation pops up and needs to be dealt with immediately, briefly excuse yourself or send a quick email or text, then turn your attention back to the meeting.

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