Meeting Etiquette

When to Invite / When to Attend

How many times have you or someone you work with complained that you aren’t able to get any real work done because you’re always booked with back-to-back-to-back meetings all day long?We’ve all heard it countless times but what really drives me crazy is that when I ask the person what they’re doing about it, they turn into a defeatist and claim: “It’s out of my hands.”… WRONG ANSWER!

This problem happens to all of us, but what 95% of us forget is that the solution is in our control. At the end of the day, the responsibility for knowing who belongs in a meeting lies with both the sender and the receiver.What to do???

When to Invite Someone to a Meeting?
The next time you’re creating a meeting invite, use the following guidelines to keep your meetings smaller. Remember, smaller meetings are more effective meetings and if you start using these tricks, chances are your coworkers will too and you’ll have fewer meetings to attend:

• The Required, Optional, and Resource (think, Bcc for meetings) options are there for a reason – use them!
• If a particular attendee is critical to the meeting, call this out in the message body or assign them to specific agenda items.
• Instead of including an entire team, think about times when you can request that the team choose a single representative to attend
• A simple rule of thumb is – if in doubt, leave the person out. That may sound harsh, but you’re most likely doing them a favor.

When to Accept a Meeting Invite?
Another meeting invite pops up in your inbox. What do you do?

• Don’t just blindly accept all invites. This is obvious, but read the message first and you may see right away that you don’t need to attend.

• However, there will still be times that you read the invite, decide you don’t need to be there, but see that your boss is on the invite (or worse yet, your boss sent the invite) so you feel bad skipping out. Then what?

  1. Ask what your role in the meeting is?
  2. If the person hesitates or is unsure, there’s your answer.

• Tell your boss that you have another task that requires your time and ask if it’s ok for you to skip. You’ll find that more often than not, not only will they say yes, but they’ll be glad you proactively avoided wasting another hour of company time.

• Decline but stay informed – You don’t always have to be in the meeting to provide value. Reading the minutes and following up on any actions assigned to you is enough some times.
Some additional parting thoughts If you’re going to decline, always remember to do so politely. Even though the meeting may not mean a lot to you, the organizer has put time and effort into planning it. And more important, it’s better to politely decline beforehand than sneaking out of the meeting 10 minutes in once you realize you don’t need to be there. Don’t be that person!

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