While we’re always game for a meeting around here at PGi, as the Meeting Experts we’ve got to come clean about something: not every meeting is always necessary. Yes, it’s true, and you know you’ve been there. A meeting invite arrives for a meeting you know you don’t belong in, or you know isn’t a meeting-worthy topic, or quite frankly, that you just don’t have the time for. But how do you gracefully say “No?”
Say “No:” Handle it in Email
It’s easy to default to scheduling a meeting whenever anything needs to be discussed, regardless of whether that’s actually the best medium for the discussion. Occasionally, email can have some advantages. For one, it’s asynchronous; in other words, if the topic at hand isn’t urgent, an email is a good way to let people examine and explore it in their own time. Emails can also be good for complex or in-depth topics. Instead of bringing people into a meeting and putting them on the spot, email lets them read and absorb the information at their own pace.
Say “No:” No Irrelevant Meetings
Few things in life drag out quite as long as a meeting that has no relevance to you personally. Regardless of how organized the meeting is or how passionate and prepared the presenters are, if nothing they’re saying relates to your job or role, you’re going to be mentally twiddling your thumbs (if not literally twiddling them).
If you receive an invite to a meeting that you suspect is not really meant for you, politely ask the organizer if they had any specific asks for you, explaining how the topic at hand is not your responsibility. It’s not in a meeting organizer’s best interest to have uninvolved parties present, so don’t worry about offending them. They’ll be happy to have fewer participants if it ensures that everyone present is involved and ready to engage.
Say “No:” No Meetings during Crunch Time
Believe it or not, sometimes you can actually be fairly busy at work (who knew?). However, that may not always be reflected on your calendar; you’ve got a big deadline looming but a “clear” schedule, so a meeting gets added, perhaps even one that seems fairly important. What do you do?
If you go to said meeting, you’re not going to be particularly useful. You’ll be staring at the clock, watching the minutes tick away towards your major deadline without actually hearing anything that’s being said. Simply remember that you’re all professionals. Tell the organizer that you’re not going to be able to make it and ask them if they can reschedule. Better yet, avoid the entire mess altogether by adding an event to your own calendar when you know you’ve got to really put your nose to the grindstone. It can be as simple as a swath of time marked as “Busy.” Or, if you’re feeling so inclined, create a fake meeting for yourself! Get that 1:1 time with yourself out of the way.