Business Etiquette / Sell Yourself


In 2016, @ETIQhour will concentrate on the top 15 Business Etiquette Essentials every future leader will want to know. Each fortnight a new Essential has been released: Essential #12: Be on time

We’re all busy, (car and foot) traffic is at an all-time high, we are trying to fit more in to our ‘8 hour’ day, but there are times in your life when it’s just not appropriate to be late and being on time says so much about you.

Let me ask you, if you had a 2.30pm business meeting, either an internal meeting or external client meeting, what time do you think you should arrive?

a. 2:20pm
b. 2:25pm
c. 2:29pm
d. 2:30pm
e. 2:35pm

In all my years in business as both a client and supplier, and speaking with my clients over the years, in the real world of business, making a positive impression, respecting peoples time and maybe even getting hired, if you show up for a meeting late, you’re disrespectful to others.

Showing up more than 10 minutes early implies you haven’t got enough to do. Arriving exactly on time or 1 minute early makes you look rushed and disordered. Instead the correct time which will communicate courtesy and respect to your clients, team mates and business partners is b) 2:25pm.

You may find yourself attending other work functions or even a personal party or event, it can be confusing to know the unwritten rules of arriving on time (or not) to certain events. If you just can’t find yourself to be on time to anywhere, here are some scenarios and recommendations to help you avoid seven timely minefields.

A Work related function or event, as a guest
Formal work functions are always tricky: My advice is always to arrive at the start time indicated on the invitation, however, if there are cocktails before the formalities begin, you could aim for a happy medium. If the start time is at 6:30pm and the formalities begin at 7:30pm, aim to arrive by 7:00pm. However, if you do arrive on time, don’t forget the opportunities to network before everyone else turns up and your chance to meet others has gone.

A Work related function or event, as a host or on the hosting team.
Chances are that if you’re hosting or on the hosting team, you’ll already be at the venue before your clients or guests arrive, so this ‘arrival time’ will be altered to the time that your boss wants you there to help set up. Without a doubt, you shouldn’t be late at all, others are relying on you to help get things organised. Don’t let your team down, and be ontime to help make the event a thorough success.

This being said, if you’re attending an event in another country, always do your homework. Customs vary from country to country, you won’t want to offend anyone.

A Cocktail Party
For an informal cocktail party, both professionally and socially, you have a window of up to 10 minutes to make your entrance. “Fashionably late” is subjective, if you know the host well and you know they’ll be upset that you’re late, or too early then respect them and act accordingly. You may not want to be the first one to ring the doorbell, you also don’t want to arrive so late that your boss or the host is wondering if you’re lost and makes your late arrival a career limiting move.

A Bridal or Baby Shower
If you’re invited to a social occasion where there will be multiple cars, a gaggle of people, and you’ll be carrying a large gift, arrive on time to ensure you get a parking spot and can get settled without interrupting a game (or worse, the new mom or bride-to-be as she’s opening gifts).

Also remember that it’s never okay to be early to a shower (or dinner party, or cocktail hour), unless you’re part of the set-up crew. It puts more pressure on a host, as they’ll feel as if they need to start entertaining while still finishing last-minute details before the party.

A Wedding
While you won’t go to etiquette naughty corner for being late for most events in life, (although it’s never a good idea), you certainly will feel like a whole opening up and swallowing you in if you’re walking down the aisle with or after the bride—and you can bet you’ll be greeted with more than a few angry looks.

The bottom line: Barring a (major) emergency, you never get a pass on being late to a wedding. Same goes for funerals and graduations: Here, you should plan to arrive 15 minutes early and pick your seat. And if you do find yourself late, wait until the ceremony has begun to walk in, then discreetly choose a seat in the back.

A Dinner Party
You definitely don’t want to be late to a dinner party—if a host says 7:00pm, be there at 7:00pm. Otherwise, you’re likely to miss the first course and the mixing and mingling with the other guests, and you’ll throw off the mood and dynamics of the evening, the others have already taken the time to meet fellow guests, start conversations and bonding that you haven’t been a part of.

A live show at the theatre
Another “no excuse” event for being late is a play or theatre performance. It’s rude, disruptive, and says that you’re not respectful of your surroundings. Even if you have a valid excuse, the disruption of making others shift and stand up to let you by in a dark theatre is never a good move. Instead, plan to arrive around 15 minutes early, find your seat, and get settled and ready to enjoy the show well before the lights go down. And if you are late, wait until intermission to grab your seats, and hang out in the back in the meantime.

Tickets are being sold these days with ‘lockout period applies’ which means that latecomers are not permitted to enter the theatre for a set period of time due to a potential disruption, usually at the beginning of a performance or an act.

No, it’s not always easy, but arriving on time (or within the acceptable window) goes a long way in both professional and personal settings. Being punctual shows your host or the person you’re meeting how much you value his or her time. So, anticipate bad traffic, a broken zipper, a loose button, or anything that could result in a delay—and plan accordingly.

Being punctual shows others that you value their time. Being late doesn’t mean that you’re busier than other people; it just means that you’re inconsiderate.