Have you ever found yourself sitting in a meeting wondering not only why you were invited but why the meeting was happening at all?

We all have worked with people that like to meet just to meet, whether it be virtually or in person. If you haven’t worked with that person…keep working and it’s bound to happen. OR, it’s quite possible that you are the pointless meeting scheduler in your office. Yikes.

Most people have a difficult time saying no in their personal lives so declining a professional meeting is super cringe-worthy. As busy as we are, hell, even if you aren’t super busy, you still don’t have to let people waste your time. Now that we are practicing social distancing due to COVID-19, my email has been slammed with Zoom, Skype and other types of meetings. While I understand the desire to want to connect more frequently while we are in quarantine…I’m still declining meetings that I find unnecessary.

Check out my tried and true ways to avoid or keep meetings on track.

If You Need to Decline the Meeting….

I’ve received meeting invites on topics for which I had nothing to add. Even being a fly on the wall to absorb the information wouldn’t have been a good use of my time. Other times, the project wasn’t far enough along for me to be involved or the “meeting” could have been an email. In these instances, I’ll decline the meeting and send one of the following notes:

  • Ask for the agenda ahead of the meeting. If necessary, inform the sender that you are not the
    best person to provide the needed information:
    “Hi Rachel. I reviewed the agenda for the call next week. Looking at what you plan to cover, David would be the best person to provide updates about the implementation as he works more closely with the project manager.”
  • If you do not need to be present for the meeting, offer to provide information prior to or after
    the meeting.
    “I’m unable to attend this meeting. I have attached the training strategy and job aid template for your review. If you have questions before or after the meeting regarding training, please let me know.”

To Keep The Meeting On Track

There are days when I have meetings back to back and barely have time to use the restroom. On those days, I barely have a minute to spare much less sitting on a meeting that runs 15 minutes past the end time.

Here are a couple of ways that I’ve reclaimed my time:

  • Be upfront at the beginning of the call. “Good afternoon team. I have a hard stop at 2:00pm.” (So that my exit is not a distraction, I will shoot the meeting organizer an email to say that I have to drop and to follow up if anything further is needed.)
  • Use language that addresses the essence of time. “I have additional feedback on the document that may take us down a rabbit hole. Because we only have 15 minutes remaining, let’s chat offline.”

Declination messages do not have to be long and full of explanations. Be clear and helpful. Ensure that the organizer is provided the information that they need to have a productive meeting whether you are in attendance or not. In meetings that you do attend, do not shy away from keeping the meeting on track to make the best use of everyone’s time.

What pro tips do you have to avoid unnecessary or drawn out meetings?

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