US-American meeting etiquette

Meetings in US-American companies proceed goal-orientated. An agenda is distributed in advance, whereby it is expected that each person prepares for their topic.

Often exact times are given on the agenda, which are scheduled for one point of discussion. The topics are dealt with in a structured manner. Normally it is not possible to return to a point that has already been discussed.

Prepare according to the goal

If a meeting is purely about exchanging information, bring more information with you than necessary as well as lucid handouts.

Keep to each topic and don’t digress. If it should prove necessary to expand on a secondary topic, announce this beforehand: “I need to digress now to make my point.”

Find out before the meeting who will participate, so that you can adjust the course of your discussion accordingly. Who is present depends on the topic and its importance.

If you want to develop ideas and plans together with a group, it is ok to proceed less structured. Then time management will be loosened as well.

When to apologize

Meetings begin and end on time. If you arrive late, do not interrupt the meeting by apologizing or explaining. That would be a disturbance and your reasons are highly unlikely to be of any interest. The best thing to do is to express your apologies during break.

Where to sit

The boss/decision maker will be seated at the head of the table, the presenter opposite him. There is, however, usually no strict protocol to keep to in American business life. Wait until you are assigned a seat.

Whom to ask

If you are missing information, ask for it: Americans will answer your questions on position, function or authority to decide of each participant in the room openly.

If you host a meeting, only include those people who you really need for the topic.

How to talk

The conversation style in a meeting is objective and polite. Notebooks and mobiles are brought to meetings, to be available all the time.

Getting on the phone during the meeting would, however, be a bad mistake. If you do have to make a call desperately, leave the room, preferably without saying anything, so the others don’t feel disturbed. In case you are expecting an urgent phone call during the meeting, announce this in advance.

Johanna Marius

+49 (0)711 722 468 44
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