Who Should Attend Your Next Meeting?

booked calendar

Does your meeting calendar look like this? Does your boss complain about his/her calendar looking like this?

Being completely booked is great if you aren’t interested in doing any actual work, but it doesn’t exactly allow time for getting anything else done.

When there are too many people in a meeting it reduces the productivity of the key members that need to be involved, wastes time for coworkers who could simply read the meeting minutes and increases the overall cost of the meeting.

To fix this, you can start by building an understanding of:

  1. Why you are inviting someone to a meeting
  2. Why you are attending a meeting

Figuring out these insights will help you determine exactly who should be involved in a meeting and who frankly has nothing to contribute.

4 reasons to invite someone to your meeting:


1) Their a decision maker.

You’re waiting on a big decision and need approval from the big guns. There’s no point in meeting if this person can’t make it.

Decision makers are inherently invited to more meetings simply because they must approve or deny decisions in order for the next step to begin. Be mindful of their time and let them know they’re free to leave once their part is done. There’s no reason to have someone sit in an hour meeting if only 5 minutes applies to them.

2) They have vital expertise to contribute.

Does the sales manager need to be involved in a discussion on the best way to respond to a support case? Probably not. Does the COO need to sit in a brainstorming session about your latest marketing campaign slogan? Probably not.

However, having the SEO expert in a meeting on driving web traffic may make a lot more sense.

Steve Jobs was famous for actually kicking people out of meetings who didn’t need to be there, defined as “Everyone in the room should be there for a reason. There’s no such thing as a mercy invitation. Either you’re critical to the meeting or you’re not.”

3) The conversation is bigger than a quick email or IM.

Make sure the objective actually requires a meeting. Sometimes a quick update can be done a lot faster via email or a short IM conversation.

Do you find yourself scheduling meetings and then realize 2 short conversations could have got the same job done?

4) The outcome impacts them.

If the person has a stake in the decision or direction, they may need to be there to contribute.


5 ways to decline a meeting invite:

1) Ask for data via email instead.

We’ve all been asked to attend long meetings simply to review a short weekly report.

Unless it requires a detailed explanation…or you expect questions/discussions/conflict, send out the data in an excel or google doc that allows people to read it on their own time, and ask the organizer if you still need to attend. How many meetings would this eliminate from your calendar?

2) Ask to be sent meeting minutes instead.

We often get invited to meetings just to “keep you in the loop.” Instead of listening to 3-4 other people talk while you get live updates (and waste valuable time), ask to have the meeting minutes sent out at the conclusion of the meeting.

Meeting minutes should outline key decisions, action items, and important notes. These should be legible, organized and sent within an hour of the meeting to ensure the meeting is still top-of-mind.

3) Your boss invited you to a meeting, but didn’t give you any details.

Sometimes you will get invites from your boss or a person in a position of power tagging you on a mass meeting invite. You know you don’t necessarily have anything to contribute, but you don’t want to disappoint your boss.

While you should be happy they don’t want you to feel left out, explaining:

”John Doe, I’m pretty busy focusing on project ____ that is due in two weeks;  Can you provide some context to help me understanding if my attendance is critical in this meeting. Also, can you ask the organizer if they can pass along the meeting agenda to me? Thanks…”

4) You’re double booked.

When you are double booked, assess which meeting is most dependent on your attendance. A polite decline of the other meeting stressing the importance of the other meeting should be enough to smooth over any potential hurt feelings.

“Hi ____, I’d love to attend your meeting on _____, however it is pertinent that I attend another meeting at the time in which I am responsible for x,y,z. Please let me know if I can send over anything in advanced to help out and I’d love to still be included in the meeting minutes.”

5) There is no clear agenda or objective.

Sometimes people just like to socialize or talk to an echo chamber. Ask to be sent an agenda to make sure it is something you can help contribute to.

Now maybe going to that meeting won’t look quite as important any more…

Looking for an easy way to invite attendees and sync them with your meeting minutes? Try Less Meeting out completely free for 14 days!