US business meeting etiquette: Tips on achieving a successful meeting in the US

US business meeting etiquette

US business meeting etiquette calls for clear goals and an agenda which must be adhered to. A meeting is expected to end in decision. Meetings with no clear aim – a talking shop – will be considered a waste of time. Technology means alternatives to face-to-face meetings are often used, in the form of video-conferences, conference calls and webcasts.

Here are our top tips on US business meeting etiquette. These pointers provide great help if you’re pitching business to a US organization, or if you’re an expat or global assignee and new to their business culture.

Business Meeting Culture

  • Set clear goals and devise an agenda which can – and must be adhered to.
  • Allow time for decisions to be made when setting an agenda. A meeting is expected to end in results.
  • US business meeting etiquette calls for more use in technology. Where possible as an alternative to face-to-face meetings, you will see more conference calls and webcasts.
  • Encourage a collaborative environment during a meeting but be prepared to take action, assume responsibility, or make a decision by the end of the event.

Planning a meeting

  • Be clear about the purpose of the meeting and what you want to accomplish. Meetings designed strictly for discussion (without making decisions or taking action) are viewed as a waste of valuable time; you should expect a decision to be reached.
  • Distribute an agenda and any advance material before the meeting, so that the meeting time can be used to ‘get right to the point’.
  • The focus on time and results is so strong that often a professional facilitator will be brought in specifically to keep the team focused and to ensure that the results are accomplished during the meeting.

During a meeting

  • US business meeting etiquette demands attendees to make decisions and drive action. Discussion is allowed and even encouraged in a collaborative environment, but be prepared to take action, assume responsibility, or make a decision by the end of the meeting.
  • If data has been collected that is relevant, be sure that everyone has seen it. If an empirical answer can be obtained, it is always preferred to conjecture. For example, American business people will not waste time discussing whether a recent initiative was successful, they much prefer to simply look at the customer satisfaction data and take action accordingly.
  • Be prepared to take lots of notes and participate in an action planning process at the end of the meeting.
  • Americans are extremely time conscious in meetings, and will often eliminate discussion if time is running short, in order to leave time for decisions and action.

Following a meeting

  • Often the minutes (or notes) from the meeting will be sent out by an administrative assistant. These notes will contain the decisions that were made, the activities that were agreed to, and the timelines expected for delivery.
  • The meeting process can seem quite impersonal. There is a lot of discussion, activity, relating, and camaraderie during a meeting, but you may find that after the meeting this sense of community goes away as individuals begin to carry out their own tasks.

We hope these tips on US business meeting etiquette prove useful. Good luck in your next meeting! If you’re interested to learn more, keep reading!


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Country Navigator is an online and mobile platform that prepares executives and assignees on how to work and adapt culturally in over 100 countries. It combines assessments, country content and a range of e-learning modules.  The assessment tool complements training and coaching programs, delivering an intuitive and engaging interface for users to assess and manage their individual cultural tendencies and behaviors. Its blended approach puts people in complete control of their continuous learning experience. Country Navigator is an ideal instrument for global managers, teams, and assignees.

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About the Author

Terence Brake

Terence Brake is an author in the global learning & development field and has over 20 years experience helping executives to work better across cultures.

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