Meeting etiquette

Recently I was in a breakout room with someone who I had known since the first lockdown. Usually, she was great to spend time with: upbeat, knowledgeable in her field and not pushy. Today it was different, she obviously had to get something off her chest. It seems that, in the main room, someone was eating while being on camera, and she was irate!

My understanding of what was being said was that she thought this was unprofessional and disrespectful since, she said, whilst concentrating on eating, full attention was not being given to whatever was being said. Also, part of the problem was how close we are when we are meeting via a screen rather than when in a face-to-face meeting. Suffice to say once she had her say, she calmed down and became the upbeat, knowledgeable-in-her-field and not-pushy person I had known so far.

Now, I hadn’t seen the person eating, but her strong response got me thinking:

  • First, is eating during virtual meetings acceptable?
  • Next, if no, what is acceptable to consume?
  • And finally, the issue of people multi-tasking during meetings.

So, let’s look at each issue a bit more.

Is eating during virtual meetings acceptable?

Well, I’d rather not watch someone eating, and some people, I think, forget they are not sat on their own in their dining room. They shovel it in, munch away and keep inspecting whatever food is left in their hand. I don’t really like it and I do think it looks unprofessional. After all, how many meetings do you go to with potential customers where you eat your toast during the meeting? I don’t feel very strongly, but I would rather not see it in a virtual meeting. Furthermore, there’s no travelling time, so this saved time could be used to have the food before the meeting.

If eating is not acceptable, then is anything acceptable?

Now, I must admit to a challenge I have. I drink cappuccinos and, when I do, I have to stop myself from licking the spoon. There. It’s said, I’m working on it and trying my best. Phew! That’s better now it’s in the open. Anyway, from that you can see that I think it’s OK to drink non-alcoholic drinks during a virtual meeting—but from a glass, cup or receptacle that has been produced for drinking from. Not, as I saw once, drinking from the container it was bought in.

Multi-tasking during meetings

My contact was in part annoyed because she thought if people are eating, they are not concentrating on what is being said. I agree, and if you want to know more about this go to:

What do you think?

(And, in case you are saying, “Don’t ebn meet over breakfast?” Yes, we do, and we stop any kind of presenting while we all eat breakfast and chat to our neighbours, and we sit further apart than we do when we meet virtually.)

If you want more networking tips go to:

Have fun, stay safe.


6 comments on “Meeting etiquette

  1. Elaine Denise Garrod on

    Hi Glenys,
    I see where she, and you, are coming from on this and I wouldn’t be eating during a 1-2-1 meeting, or short group session, but when it comes to networking meetings it can be a different matter. FSB meetings, for example, tend to run from 11:45 – 1pm, i.e. lunchtime. Finishing lunch before 11:45 is a bit early, unless you got up really early, and not having lunch until around 1.30-2pm can be too late. I get low blood pressure if I go too long without eating, and then I get indigestion when I do eat. Some people might have more pressing medical issues which require them to eat at a particular time, e.g. people with diabetes or who are taking certain medication. Obviously, you can arrange a half-hour 1-2-1 around mealtimes, but it’s not so easy when it comes to longer meetings.

    • Glenys Chatterley on

      Thanks Elaine This is an interesting point. I really don’t like meetings that go over the lunch break but I’m lucky that, if necessary I can wait til later to eat.

  2. Kaz Macklin on

    Such an interesting post, raises varying thoughts on our perceptions of ‘good manners’ courtesy. I think this one will roll and roll Kaz Macklin – Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce

    • Glenys Chatterley on

      Thank Kaz I prefer not to watch people eating and, on a virtual screen, we’re so mych more up close and personal

  3. Keith Grover on

    At the ‘real world’ breakfast meetings I’ve been to, people are more often then not eating breakfast during the sixty second round – it seemed to be general practice out there back in ‘the olden days’. I think ‘enervator pitches’ (as I call them) are mostly time wasted anyway, so it’s not a problem for me
    In virtual meetings there’s reallyno need to eat during proceedings, so I’m not in favour – but I do often turn my camera off during the pitch round…
    I can listen without watching, and I’m usually checking out the speaker’s LinkedIn Profile which tells me so much more than they can cover in a minute – and if appropriate, sending them a Connection invitation at the same time (who said men can’t multi-task? :0)

    • Glenys Chatterley on

      Thanks for the comment. Some interesting points…I can never multitask, I do one thing at a time, then move on.


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