As you know, etiquette is about much more than learning how to place your napkin on your lap or knowing which fork to use first.  It’s not just about saying “please” and “thank you,” and knowing not  to interrupt others when they are talking.  But do you know the rules when it comes to business etiquette, especially in relation to technology?

I’ll admit that I’m just as guilty as the next busy businessperson. My phone is on, all the time.  I occasionally check email when I’m in a meeting, and there have even been times where I have had to step out of a meeting to take a call.  I mean after all, I run a PR firm, and what would my clients think if they couldn’t reach me, especially in a crisis?  So, while it may be part of your nature to be available throughout during the business day, there are still a few rules we should all consider when it comes to showcasing good business etiquette in this rapidly advancing technological world.

Turn off the cell

We all want information right now.  We’ve become accustomed to the immediacy that living in a digital world provides us.  We often feel the need to multitask to feel productive, and to try to get more done in less time.  However, paying attention to your phone (or iPad, laptop or anything other than the person or people you are meeting with) is nothing short of disrespectful.  Provide the same respect in a meeting you would hope to receive.  That means turn off the phone and any other distractions, pay attention and be present!  In honor of National Cellphone Courtesy Month this month, keep the following things in mind next time you enter a meeting and have Siri in your pocket:

Be present: Let calls go to voice mail and read text and email later. Better yet, silence your phone or turn it off altogether.  It’s easy to update your voice mail (or out of office assistant on your email) to let your contacts know you’ll be unavailable for a short time and how to reach you if it is a true emergency. Otherwise, it can wait.

Don’t yell: We’ve all heard the “cell yell” voice.  For some reason, the volume we normally speak at often seems insufficient when we talk on our cell phones.  When you’re in the office, or any public place, avoid yelling on your cellphone.  If it’s too loud and you feel the need to talk louder for others to hear you over the noise, return the call when and where it’s quieter and you can speak at a more appropriate volume level.

Keep it private: Engage in sensitive conversations in private.  Your coworkers and supervisors don’t want to hear about the fight you had with your spouse, your call with your financial adviser, or worse, your complaints to HR about a coworker.

No text speak 

There is no doubt about it, email is the primary communication method in business today; however does not mean you can be lazy with your written communication.  Grammar, spelling, and sentence structure are still essential to all business communication – and remember, business communication is NOT the same as texting a friend or your children.  There is a time and a place to communicate in abbreviations and “cool” misspellings, but it is not during your business communication.

I hear you, but I can’t see you

Even though conference calls aren’t considered a new technology, I feel the need to speak to it, as I see so many examples of misconduct.  Just because the other caller can’t see you, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be paying close attention to what they are saying.  That means no playing with your phone, typing emails, talking to others in the room while the phone is on mute, or conducting other personal business.  If you honestly believe you don’t need to be in the meeting, then don’t go; avoid being a distraction to others in the room who do need to be there. You were invited to the meeting to either provide input or receive input, so please give it your undivided attention.

Meet George Jetson

Did you ever think you would be able to video conference like they did on the Jetson’s?  What seemed unattainable years ago is now a reality, and we need to make sure we know how to behave professionally.  Video conferencing can be a great tool to reduce the time and expense of travel for meetings.  In general, the same rules apply as meeting in person; pay attention, be on time, and don’t interrupt.  Maintaining professionalism should be a given; please remember to dress professionally, and take notice of what the viewers will see behind you   If you by chance take the conference call at home, it would look very unprofessional to be in your pajamas or with your bed in view.  Keep a professional composure – people can see you, and what you’re doing, even when you’re NOT speaking.

Answer me!  

Have you ever asked someone a question and they just sit there and stare at you?  That’s how it feels when a phone call or email goes unanswered.  If you don’t know the answer, that’s OK – but be polite and reply back anyway.  If you don’t have time to address their question immediately, but will next week, just let them know that  We’re all busy, and most people can empathize with the pressing demands of daily workloads; communication goes a long way, so don’t just assume people know you aren’t replying because you’re busy  The key here is respect through simple communication  Answer emails within 24 hours, and phone calls within 48 hours unless the email or voice message has been marked urgent, or you have indicated in advance that you are unavailable during that time.

Recognizing how you can become a better business associate, team leader or business partner by altering just a few behaviors will help you succeed and make others feel valued and respected