Here at Think Productive we feel strongly about making meetings as productive as possible. So much so, that we offer Workshops such as effective meetings training. We know what it’s like, the numerous invitations that land in your inbox that you really would prefer not to attend. Now, this may be because of many reasons. Whether it is because the meetings are always boring or more legitimately, you’re up to your eyes in work and just don’t have the time. We all have to say “No” sometimes, and we are here to look at how you can do that, politely. Let’s start with looking at the meeting itself.
Firstly, not all meetings can be declined. A lot of them are important, but there are generally plenty of meetings which don’t need your attendance.
So, deciding if the meeting itself is of value and worth attending for anyone should be the priority. What’s worse than wasting your time is wasting the whole team’s time. There are certain questions that can gauge whether the meeting is valuable or not.
- Is the meeting set up with an organised structure that has a clear purpose and agenda?
- Is the topic of conversation important and timely?
- If progress is going to be made, are the right people going to be in the room?
- Is there contextual information available to attendees in advance?
Can you add value?
If it’s decided that the meeting is indeed important, the next question should be if you are important to the meeting. Our Productivity Ninjas know that you can get invited for the sole purpose of making you ‘aware’ of what’s going on in a certain area or to update you on the progress of a project. These can be described as ‘For your information’ meetings. Ones in which you cannot, or are not, expected to contribute actual value but to only listen to updates. In these situations it is much better to spend the time on other work and get those involved to email you the latest action plan or even possible questions. A method that is discussed in our Email Etiquette Training.
Great meetings are when a problem has occurred and as such, a group is required to work together to create value and produce a solution. If the meeting is just about updating someone on the latest information, it’s likely to be more productive to email them or at least keep the meeting short and brief.
Ways to say no
You realize that for whatever reason, you can’t or don’t want to attend the meeting proposed. Therefore, you’re going to have to reply saying no. Saying No, as we know, isn’t the easiest job to do, so here are some tips on how to politely decline your next meeting:
1) Be clear on your schedule
It’s common, especially when you hold a leadership position, to have a schedule of meetings outlined in advance. For example, sales meetings on a Monday, content meetings on a Tuesday, etc. By letting people in the office know you have a schedule outlined, they are less likely to ask outside of those times unless it is a pressing matter. This way you can always deflect meetings by replying
“Yes, I’m happy to discuss this with you. Can it wait and be included in the meeting we have scheduled on Thursday?”
2) Just say no, kindly
There’s nothing wrong with saying no. More people should be saying it. It shows that your time is important and your co-workers will understand that. This way of rejecting a meeting is more direct, best used for meetings which do not require you or are not of relevance. This can be combined with the other methods however. For example, “Unfortunately, I am an unable to make that meeting because of existing commitments. However, please feel free to email me the report afterwards as well as any questions you may have.”
3) Suggest a different option
A meeting takes time out of people’s days, if there is a way to get the same result through a more efficient method, then that surely should be done. For example, they could email you questions in advance. An alternative to email could be arranging a 10-minute phone call to talk through it rather than spending an hour in a meeting. It could even be possible to send someone into the meeting instead. If you feel they are qualified and you’re confident they can add sufficient value. Chances are, everyone else will be thankful to cancel a meeting and catch up through a different forum.
4) Ask for a meeting report
This is probably the most common method when declining a meeting. Saying that unfortunately you’re not going to be able to make it, however you are interested in how the project is developing, so could they email you a report of what was discussed and concluded?
How do you decline a meeting invitation politely? Let us know in the comment box below or tweet us @thinkproductive
By Miles Singleton
Miles is Think Productive’s Editorial Content Producer.