The world is your conference room
Members of the DealBook team live in New York, Washington, Chicago, London and Rome, and we most often meet virtually. So we wondered: Is it important to be at a desk? In the postpandemic professional scene, just how miffed or forgiving should we be about video calls from a cab or airport security? Experts weighed in.
The goal of good etiquette is to make people comfortable, so there’s a range of appropriate behavior, said Lizzie Post of the Emily Post Institute, an author and a great-great-granddaughter of the renowned etiquette expert Emily Post. “You always want to be present and focused,” she said. That means having the camera on, Ms. Post said. But location is flexible. During the pandemic, when movement was restricted and many were sharing close quarters, Ms. Post saw a lot of people meeting in parked cars, she said. Still, she advised, “We want to be careful about how we make these choices.”
“Not everyone is looking for their lives to be so casual,” Ms. Post cautioned. Consider who is meeting, the possible impact on others and just how presentable you need to appear. Is it a client? Are you trying to close a deal? It’s not necessarily a status flex to take a call from any particular place, or a sign of disrespect, especially if urgency outweighs formality, she said. But it should be noted that Ms. Post spoke via video from her office, preferring to reschedule when a glitch created a risk that she would be on the go as she illuminated mobile etiquette. “If I did the interview in the car, I would have wanted to ask you about it first,” she said. “The key is to check in.”
Presence is everything. “To me, the real conversation is not about location but expectations,” said Steven Rogelberg, a University of South Carolina business school professor and the author of “The Surprising Science of Meetings.” In a phone interview that Rogelberg had warned might come from his car, the meeting expert argued for a liberated approach. Leaders should demonstrate total presence and make meetings relevant to attendees, and they should demand the same from others without dictating specifics, he said.
“Wherever you want to do the meeting is fine as long as you can focus and commit,” he said, adding, “Of course it’s absolutely true that having meetings in cabs or cafes can make those things much harder.”