Should you accept that meeting invite? (video transcript)

Wondering whether to accept or decline a meeting invitation? Let’s go through a simple set of questions you can ask yourself to make a call.

Is it important?

First, take a look at what you know about the meeting, and evaluate the value of the meeting from the get-go:

  • Is the meeting timely?
  • Is it on a worthwhile topic?
  • Is it even something that needs to have a meeting? And if it is, is it set up for success?
  • Is there a good agenda?
  • Is it the right participants?
  • Has there been information sent to prepare you, or at least, some clarity about how you can prepare for the meeting?

All of those things help you to evaluate whether this is a valuable meeting or not. If it’s not looking good, if you ask those questions, and you decide either that, “I don’t even know why we’re talking about this”, or “I don’t know why we’re talking about this yet“, or “I think it’s a good thing to talk about, but they aren’t the right people to talk about it”, or “there’s no preparation”, then do one of two things:

Try and make the meeting more effective – You might write back and say, “I think this sounds great, this is really important, but I’m concerned, from looking at the invite list, that we don’t have a couple of the people from Ops that will be important. Any way to get them there?” or “I would recommend postponing until we can find them.” You might also say that “This sounds really great. I also agree that we need to really rethink our approach to sales in the Western US, but we are going to be getting some new data from our big customer survey we’re doing. What if we were to wait until we have those data?” If the meeting is not set up for success, then ask some questions, make some suggestions that help to defer it, delay it, or better set it up.

Remove the need for you to attend – If you just think it’s not important, you can say something like, “Hey, sounds like this is mostly just for information sharing. Is there any way you could send something out rather than us convening a meeting?”

If you’re satisfied that this meeting should happen, and that it should happen now and with these people, the the next thing you need to ask is…

Is it for you?

If your answer is, “Yeah, this sounds important, it sounds timely, and it sounds like it’s set up for success”, the next question is: should it be you that attends?

It may be a really good meeting, you’re just not quite sure why it’s you who needs to go. So are you the right person to attend?

  • Do you have the right expertise?
  • Does it fit your role in your job?
  • Does it fit your authority?
  • Are you too senior to be in this conversation, it’s kind of too big a club for that shot?
  • Or is it the opposite, you’d love to be there, but you don’t have the authority to decide the things that the meeting planner wants you to decide?

So you have two options. One option is to decline. Sure, it’s a valuable meeting, but you’re not the right person. If that’s the case, you might want to point out to the person who invited you, “Sounds great, I’m just not sure I’m the best fit for this meeting. I think we need somebody with more expertise on the supply chain than I have,” or “I’m going to send a delegate. Here’s the person who I want to come, because I think this would be a great developmental opportunity,” or “I’m asking so-and-so, who’s already going to be there, to represent me.” So there are a variety of different options as to how you make a suggestion about why it’s not you.

But if it’s option two, and you are the right person, there’s one more question you need to ask before you accept…

Is it a priority?

So we’ve got two things going for us. It’s an important meeting, and it’s really a good fit with what you have on your plate and what your role is. The final question then, is is it a priority?

There are probably lots of good, important, well-suited meetings that you’re invited to, and if you go to all of them, you’re never going to have time to think , or to do some of the preparation or the follow-up on meetings that makes them actually worthwhile.

So that’s your third thing: gauge the priority. How central is this topic to what’s going on in your role right now? Where does it fit relative to your other priorities? If you say, “Oh, it just doesn’t get to the top of the list,” then your options are really around finding a way to contribute, but in a way that’s more efficient. You might be able to say, “Oh, got your invite, sounds awesome. I have these three other priorities this week, so I’m not going to be able to attend. Here are my preliminary thoughts.” Sometimes, if you can spend 20 minutes crafting a really good email, adding some evidence or some data, or just doing some work to position it for success, that’s a lot better than going to a three-hour meeting.

Another alternative is that you pick up the phone and you just call the person and say, “I don’t have a lot to add on this right now, but here are two or three ideas that might help you.” Contribute that way, in advance, rather than attending the whole meeting.

Finally, remember you can attend for just the part of the meeting that is relevant to you. You can say something like, “Could you put this agenda item first? I’ll pop in for the first half hour, but then I have to go.” Or just say, “I’ll be working at my desk. Just text me when we get to that agenda item, and I’ll jump on.”

Those are ways to say it’s a valuable meeting, it’s a good topic, it is a good fit for me, and it’s just I have so much else going on right now so I’m going to find a way to meet your need but in a way that’s a little bit more efficient.

And of course, if you answer that, “yes, absolutely, it’s a priority for me – it’s valuable, timely, set up for success, is a good fit with my role, my expertise, my authority, and really is pretty high up on my priority list”, well, say yes . Accept that meeting in a hurry and do the prep work, read the primer, go with bells on, because that’s the kind of meeting that we all would like to be at, one that is a really good use of time and one that can be a pleasure to contribute at.

Will you accept or decline that next meeting invitation?

So if you have a meeting invite sitting waiting that you haven’t replied to yet, or with the very next one that comes in, I want you to stop and go through this process. Evaluate the value of the meeting, assess your fit personally for the meeting and gauge the priority, and decide, is this a meeting that you should accept, or is there a chance to better position it for success, ask for a deferral, change from a meeting to some other information distribution method, send a delegate, escalate to somebody with more authority, or to contribute in a way that’s more modest, like with an email, an advance conversation, or by just attending part of the meeting?

I want you to know you’ve got lots of options to really contribute in a way that makes sense for you and for your organization, that don’t require that you sit in endless meetings.

More on this

How to Evaluate the Quality of Meetings

8 Techniques to Make Your Meetings More Effective (Part I)

8 Techniques to Make Meetings More Effective (Part II)