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  Is punctuality important to Americans?

Americans do their best to be on time. Nothing is more exasperating for a person to have to cut short a meeting in order to be on time for the next meeting—only to find that the person he is meeting with is late. Here are a few recommendations described on American guidelines for optimizing everyone's time:

- Whether you are calling the meeting or you got invited to someone else's meeting, show up on time (if you called the meeting try to be a few minutes early to ensure the room is ready).

- Meetings or events that do not start on schedule reflect very poorly on their organizers. Announcing in advance that you expect your meetings to begin on time, with the most important business first on the agenda, will prepare the attendees to EXPECT punctuality and avoid their assuming that "these things are always late."

- If the doors to your meeting room are normally open before the meeting begins, try closing them just when you do begin, to help the attendees concentrate on your presentation. This also focuses a little pressure on any late arrivals.

- Avoid chitchat at the beginning of the meeting. Once everyone is there and is seated, start the meeting immediately.

- Stick to the agenda. If an unexpected issue is uncovered that is not included in the agenda, schedule another meeting to address it. If the issue is so important that it must be dealt with immediately, make sure everyone is comfortable extending the meeting and it does not conflict with other agendas. Often you might be better off keeping only a reduced group of truly interested people after the meeting to discuss the issue rather than keeping everyone longer.

- At the end of the meeting, summarize action items and schedule the next meeting if appropriate.

If you follow these simple guidelines, you will be recognized as an efficient organizer and will encounter less resistance to the attendance of your meetings. These are very important points for the American culture.

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