Cancelling and/or rescheduling meetings is a normal part of business life. But that doesn’t mean everyone else will be fine when you do it. At the risk of ruffling feathers, here’s why you may want to consider cancelling that next meeting:
1. There’s no good reason to have it
Many organisations hold regular meetings at the same time each week or month. It could be argued that these meetings keep everyone informed or that it helps team members bond. Really?
Brian de Haaff, CEO of Aha!, describes a scenario frighteningly familiar to many office workers: “It's Monday morning. Half the team wanders in late to the conference room for your weekly team meeting. Some people are gulping coffee to stay awake or sneaking glances at their phones. Many are doing both. The meeting starts, and you realise there is no agenda or real purpose.”
Workers will begrudge the time such meetings take. They will be reluctant to make any meaningful input, even if a topic of substance does come up. And eventually, your best workers will find excuses to stay at their desks and be productive instead of attend a dead meeting.
You could try to force a purpose on these regular get-togethers. An agenda could give the gathering some semblance of purpose or direction. But isn’t it better to cancel the meeting and just let everyone keep working?
2. The meeting is just for distributing information
If that’s all you need to accomplish, it can be done far more efficiently with an email, or even an instant message.
When the information is in the form of an announcement, or even when a procedure needs to be changed, a short email or message can do it. Remember, effective meetings are about getting input from people who can make a positive difference. If you don’t need a response or to have ideas bounce back to you, this will do the trick.
3. It’s too expensive
Savvy business leaders now know that meetings are never free. The cost is usually calculated as the average hourly remuneration x number of participants. Even a one-hour meeting held every week can be a prohibitive expense. Check out the infographic at readytalk to see how it adds up. Some meetings will also incur travel and catering costs, and possibly idle machine time.
However, the true cost could be even greater, if you factor in lost time because a team member won’t start a half-hour task with only ten minutes until the meeting. And it takes time to walk to and from the conference room, to get back into the zone after the meeting, and get productive again.
Maybe an item really does require input from a team. If the schedule allows for it, consider delaying that item and combining it with another later meeting.
4. You have too much else to do
This may seem like a statement about your work, and not so much about the meeting itself. But the meeting is part of your work, so if you can’t fit it in, it’s not as important as other pressing matters. That may be a realistic assessment, but what will the other meeting attendees think?
Can the meeting continue without you? If your presence isn’t essential, cancelling is always the right thing to do. If necessary business can’t proceed without your input, could you just attend that part of the meeting where you are truly needed? That could reduce a one-hour hit on your time to ten minutes.
5. It’s unproductive
Trish Gorman, director at Deloitte, points out that meeting junkies seldom estimate whether the meeting will create any new revenue or profit for the company. Insist that the participants take a few moments to estimate the value that the meeting will produce. The value could be in efficiency, effectiveness, or even energy (fun). If the meeting costs more than that return is worth, consider cancelling it.
6. It’s an open meeting, where attendance is optional
This should be the easiest one to pull out of. There would have to be a very compelling reason to give up part of your workday to be somewhere you don’t have to be.
7. Be cautious in calling a meeting in the first place
Rather than cancelling meetings for any of these good reasons, it’s far better not to accept meeting invitations that you will later try to revoke.
If you are the one responsible for calling meeting, remember that you are asking every attendee to stop what they were doing and come to talk. It’s a big ask, and one that should be done cautiously and with respect. Lucid Meetings suggests that we consider these points first:
- They may be working on an important project that needs their undivided attention
- They may have other meetings, with goals, plans and important work to do
- They may have sick kids, dentist appointments, or any number of personal crises to juggle
- They may be excruciatingly shy and uncomfortable in meetings
- They may hate winging it, and find people who do unprofessional
When you request a meeting, you’re saying that your meeting is important enough to warrant their time — more important than anything else they might need to do then.
No one in business can afford to waste time in unnecessary meetings. According to Trish Gorman, scarcity forces economy. If you cancel any of your upcoming meetings, you will make the ones you don’t cancel count more.