The Elements

By Judith Bowman   |   May 17, 2016

Boardroom Protocol: 17 Tips for Successful Business Meetings

Categories: Advisory Boards, Protocol

Social media platforms aside, the one-on-one, face-to-face business meeting remains an integral part of the professional landscape and presents a singular opportunity to personally connect and ultimately advance critical interpersonal relationships.

Think of business meetings as fertile judgment grounds where others almost relentlessly judge behavior because a business opportunity is on the table, so to speak. Preparation should be both tactical and strategic.

Smiling business people shaking hands with smiling colleague behind them

Let me invite you on a preparation journey from the parking lot to the boardroom:

Before the Meeting
  • Reconfirm meeting the previous day and prepare an agenda to include them!
  • Learn their company’s dress culture and dress a notch above. You want to “fit in” yet present yourself so others look up to you as the consummate professional in your field. Remember, Professional Attire is “never wrong.”
  • Think: quality … from attire, business cards and hand-outs to briefcases and yes, even pens.
  • Select briefcase size to match your mission. Carrying a large, full briefcase to a 20-minute meeting suggests they are one of many. Your goal is to make them feel like your “one and only.”
Arrivals & Introductions
  • Arrive 15 minutes early, but no more than 15-minutes … they are not literally your only client!
  • Upon arrival, cell phones, pagers: Off! NO one else is more important.
  • Introduce yourself to the receptionist and offer your card. Visit restroom for a final visual and wash and dry hands thoroughly to help eliminate clammy hands – the “kiss of death!” Pop a breath mint.
  • STAND in the reception, briefcase in your left hand, leaving your right hand free to shake hands.
  • In The Meeting Room, exchange business cards before the meeting and strategically align them around your portfolio to use (perfectly pronounced) names when speaking. Your attention detail is noticed.
  • Engage in small talk placing others at ease and make personal client notes. This information can be used in subsequent communication to further relationships.
Sitting/Seating:
  • Remember, the host, always seated first, sits at the ‘head of the table’ – facing the doors. The most important person is seated to host’s right. The second most important person: host’s left.  Co-presenters sit opposite the host to gesture/exchange silent signals and together, control the meeting.
  • Sit (focused) forward and consume much “space.” The perception is powerful. Good posture and eye-contact are imperative.
  • Remember, hands belong on the table; you are not “under handed” or going to draw a sword/weapon! (origin.)
  • Refrain from fidgeting, inattentiveness and touching face/hair. Hosts should stand to introduce versus announce, those present.
  • Guests should stand for self-introductions.
After the Meeting
  • Hosts walk guests to door/elevator/car, referring to the “meeting after the meeting” when it all comes together.
  • Remember to send email and hand-written “thank you” notes within 24-48 hours.

You are now prepped, and properly positioned to personally connect, counter and close at the table!


Judith Bowman
Business Protocol

Judith Bowman founded Protocol Consultants International in 1993 and has prospered to become an established Business Protocol expert, educator, corporate speaker, and renowned authority in the field of Professional Presence, Dining Savvy, International Protocol Awareness, and personal and professional development. Ms. Bowman also provides Protocol Certification. She is a graduate of Boston College and has pursued studies in Effective Business Communication at Harvard University.

Ms. Bowman speaks to critical interpersonal communication skills and shares specific nuances advantageous to exemplary conduct in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive global work environment. She showcases everyday business situations and shows professionals how to leverage these as opportunities to demonstrate respect while earning respect – while showing you know “the difference” while making a difference to stand apart and outclass the competition!

Ms. Bowman has authored two business protocol books: “Don’t Take the Last Donut…” (Career Press) presently sold in 16 countries, translated in 14 languages, and her new book, “How to Stand Apart @ Work …” She has authored a weekly Everyday Etiquette column syndicated throughout New England for ten years by the Pulitzer Prize winning Eagle Tribune Publishing Company. Internationally, she authored a Business Protocol column for the prestigious Noblesse Magazine, China. She presently writes a weekly Business Protocol column for Boston Herald newspapers and has a coordinating weekly radio segment, “A Protocol Moment” on Herald Radio.
She also writes a monthly Fabulous Woman series which features truly fabulous women who have shattered the glass ceiling and has been featured in Leader to Leader, March, 2015.

Bowman has produced a series of support products which include: Executive Etiquette/First Impressions DVD, DINING 101 DVD and Protocol Training DVD – from her on-line How to Stand Apart series.

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