British manners are fast disappearing, at least in business meetings, if a new survey on behalf of Future Inns is to be believed.

Future Inns found that 41% of British businesspeople think it is acceptable to regularly answer phone calls or respond to emails during meetings while half (50%) will go as far as actually getting up and leaving meetings to answer calls. Despite that, of the 41% who admit to regularly answering calls and emails during meetings, more than two-thirds (70%) actually consider it rude when others do the same.

The survey also determined that men were the ruder sex. Half of businessmen (49%) consider it acceptable to take calls during a business meeting and almost two-thirds (61%) will often leave their colleagues or clients waiting whilst leaving the room to attend to a call. A third of men (31%) admitted to regularly yawning in meetings and 35% think nothing of arriving late.

In contrast, just a third (33%) of women will answer calls and respond to emails during a business meeting and nearly a quarter (23%) would consider arriving late.

When questioned about their most memorable 'meeting mishaps', the five most common mishaps revealed by the survey included:

Forgetting client names or repeatedly being called the wrong name in a business meeting

2. Falling off chairs (or accidentally breaking them)

3. Spilling drinks. Almost half (45%) of those surveyed had spilt drinks over themselves or others in a meeting - exploding Coke cans and coffee spillages topped the list

4. Falling asleep - in fact 28% of those surveyed said they had fallen asleep in a meeting

5. Arriving at meetings on the wrong day or even at the wrong venue

However, in some cases, the mishaps were more extreme, such as:

• Falling overboard during a sales pitch on a yacht (yet still winning the pitch)

• Walking headfirst into a glass door on leaving a meeting, causing serious concussion

• Allowing an LCD projector to overheat, causing a full scale evacuation of the hotel where the meeting was taking place

William Hanson, an etiquette expert, said: "It's simply shocking to see how many people think it acceptable to pick up a phone in the middle of a meeting or have a laptop open to answer emails."

The survey was undertaken in July 2010 among a "representative" sample of UK businesspeople, although Future Inns did not reveal how many people participated.

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By Neil Gerrard

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