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What Does Meetings Etiquette Look Like This Year?

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Things that were no-brainers in meetings two years ago are now fraught with public health and Meetings Etiquette concerns. How do you ask whether someone is OK shaking hands? How do you indicate that you yourself aren’t comfortable—or that you are? How do you indicate someone is too physically close for comfort?

Before walking into what might be your first in-person meeting in a while, consider these insights to draw your own safety standards without impinging on why you’re going back to the conference space: connecting with others in real time.

Be Polite, But Speak Up

Just because you’re comfortable enough to return to in-person meetings doesn’t mean that you’ll be comfortable with acting like it’s 2019. What felt like an appropriate personal distance back then might feel unsafe to you now, and you could be put in a situation where your fellow attendees don’t give you enough space. It may be uncomfortable to ask others for more space, but with your safety in mind, it’s best to push through this awkwardness and say something. The Emily Post Institute offers a few phrases you can use to speak up without ruffling feathers, such as:

  • “Sorry, I’m trying to keep 6 feet away.” (While stepping back)
  • “I’ll wait and catch the next elevator.”
  • “Do you mind giving us just a little bit more space, please?” (Hopefully followed by a: “Thank you so much.”)

“You want to have an upbeat tone to your delivery, no edge whatsoever,” the Emily Post Institute wrote.

Follow Cough Etiquette

Sneezing, sniffles, and coughs certainly carry more weight than they used to, and will raise more concerns and turn more heads than the last time you were at an in-person gathering. So, if you’re unmasked during the event, remember to follow proper coughing etiquette, which includes:

  • Covering your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze.
  • Coughing or sneezing into your elbow, not your hands, if you don’t have a tissue.
  • Throwing used tissues in the trash.
  • Immediately washing your hands after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing.

While following cough etiquette has always been the way to conduct yourself, being diligent with your hygiene will go a long way toward making everyone comfortable during in-person meetings in 2022.

Ask—Don’t Assume—When Greeting Others

When greeting fellow attendees, keep in mind that some will be OK with hugs and handshakes, while others might still be uncomfortable. Don’t assume that the person you’re talking to has gone back to pre-COVID greetings. Instead, say something like “Hi, nice to see you. [Are we shaking hands/Can I hug you?]” If this feels a little awkward, it might help just to acknowledge that awkwardness with the person you’re talking to.

“It makes the person feel better,” said Vanessa Bohns, a professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “When the other person feels better, they like you more.”

Why Is Punctuality Important?

The event’s organizers have probably gone to great lengths to put together a safe in-person meeting. Don’t be late! Of course, attending an in-person gathering takes more prep than a virtual one, where you could just open your laptop from home. Now that you‘re back in person, give yourself enough time to arrive, park, check in, find your room, go through any safety protocols, and grab a seat.

Photo by 2H Media on Unsplash

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