How To Reject A Meeting Request

How to reject a meeting request

A couple weeks ago, I had multiple meetings where, going into the meeting, I was absolutely sure I wouldn’t be able to help the entrepreneurs in the ways they’d hoped, but they were persistent, so I agreed to the meetings.

Unfortunately, I was right.

After lots of wasted hours — specifically the wasted hours of precious entrepreneur time for the people meeting with me — I received yet another request from someone I knew I wouldn’t be able to help. In frustration, I posted the following Tweet:

Usually when I ask the Twitter masses a question, all I get is silence, but this particular question spurred an interesting mix of comments. I’ve shared some responses below and my thoughts on them. At the end, I’ll share how I responded to the request that spurred my tweet.

James Avery tries to improve efficiency…

Offering a call seems like a good in-between response. It’s less of a time commitment, while not an outright rejection. Still, I wonder about the value. Even if the call only takes 30 minutes, aren’t I knowingly wasting 30 minutes of that entrepreneur’s time?

Either way, I’m definitely going to use Jame’s suggestion about asking more people to come to my office. That’s a smart optimization.

Bryan Guido Hassin likes paying the karma gods…

I agree that sometimes you might not realize the ways in which a meeting can be valuable. At the same time, after a career of meetings, I feel like it’s possible to make an educated and usually-accurate guess. Still, it’s hard to argue with the importance of pleasing the karma gods. Definitely don’t want to piss them off.

Joe Procopio focused on work meetings…

Realizing he was talking about working meetings but the question had been about informal “coffee” meetings, Joe added:

At first I wasn’t sure I agreed with Joe that working meetings and informal “let’s connect” meetings have much overlap. However, after thinking about it a bit, he has an interesting port. Specifically, plenty of the optimizations that get applied to working/office meetings could be applied to informal meetings. In fact, here’s a relevant suggestion from one of my Duke colleagues…

Steve McClelland suggested adding a helpful barrier…

What if I the “assignment” Steve suggests is to request an agenda ahead of time? Not only would this create a barrier to push away less serious meeting requests, it would also help organize meetings, as per Joe’s suggestion, which is something I do for working meetings.

If nothing else, requesting an agenda would probably encourage the people scheduling a meeting to think through what they want to say and what they want to ask for in ways most of them aren’t currently doing.

Dana Publicover encouraged me to give a referral…

On one hand, I agree in the value of referrals and try to give them whenever possible. On the other hand, I worry about referring people I don’t know well because, like it or not, a bad referral can reflect poorly on me. That might seem a bit selfish, but most of us know people who keep sending us bad referrals, and it impacts the way all of their referrals get treated.

Malcolm Gill brought the optimism…

And he’s right. You never know what can happen. That’s certainly part of the anxiety I have when deciding whether or not to turn down a meeting.

Also worth noting… you never know what can happen when you play the lottery, but I still don’t buy tickets.

And Will Hardison had perhaps the most actionable advice…

In my world, we call that #MarketerHumor… =)

So here’s what I did…

As you read, everyone has their own way of handling meeting requests with questionable value. Some people take the meetings while trying to optimize for efficiency, some attempt to add better vetting up front, and other people believe meetings are a core part of the entrepreneurial ecosystem and are never truly a waste of time.

As for me, I still don’t know the best strategy for rejecting a meeting request. I guess I’ll have to experiment and report back.

For my first experiment, I replied to the entrepreneur who triggered my tweet by explaining why I believed I wouldn’t be a helpful person for him to meet and that I valued his time too much to waste it. To his credit, he wrote a kind response thanking me for my honesty, so I guess that’s one data point in support of an honest, candid rejection email.

How about you? How do you turn down meeting requests? Reply in the comments below or tweet @AaronDinin.

 

Share

I teach in Duke University’s Innovation & Entrepreneurship program and founded RocketBolt. I write about startups, pedagogy, entrepreneurship, engineering, and poetry. They’re all related, I promise.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Instagram

  • After today’s #learningtofail class, I discovered one student accidentally left his computer charger, and another student accidentally left his spare tire. I wonder how often other professors encounter that combination of forgotten items... 🤷‍♂️
.
.
.
.
.
#entrepreneur #entrepreneurship #entrepreneurlife #innovation #lostandfound #freetire
  • Day 1 of #socialmediamarketing and my @dukeinnovation students already hate me and refused to dab for my boomerang. So all you get is this boring still. Sorry.
.
.
.
.
.
#entrepreneur #entrepreneurlife #innovation #marketing #socialmarketing #fdoc #bestprofessorever
  • #MoreThanDouble with 4 minutes left... still #MoreThanDouble at the end! I especially love doing that to a safety school. Definitely a good day to be a @dukembb fan. #letsgoduke
  • Dear @dukeinnovation students... pay no attention to the tiger on the chalkboard behind you. #nothingtoseehere #grr
  • Today, the @southwestair Twitter account shared some valuable wisdom with my @dukeinnovation #socialmediamarketing class. I couldn’t agree more 😁
  • Founder of @thestartupfactory and one of my first business mentors, @davenealnc, stopped by the @dukeinnovation Capstone class to discuss #venturecapital and why the #researchtriangle is a great place to build a #startup.
.
.
.
.
.
#entrepreneur #entrepreneurship #entrepreneurlife #startups #startupstories #venturecapitalist #innovation #researchtrianglepark #rtp
  • When Bill Aulet, author of Disciplined Entrepreneurship and managing director of @eshipmit swings by Durham for a day, you cancel your lesson plan and convince him to guest lecture in your @dukeinnovation #entrepreneurship capstone class 😁
.
.
.
.
.
#entrepreneur #startup #startups #entrepreneurlife #startuplife #innovation #business #guestlecture #disciplinedentrepreneurship
  • Lucky to have @youtube #tech personality, #entrepreneur, and #startup founder @matt_schaefer_ swing by my #socialmediamarketing class today to talk about strategies for building audiences online.
.
.
.
.
.
#videomarketing, #influencermarketing, #startups, #entrepreneurship, #marketing, #fearthealgorithm
  • Thanks to Bill Walker, founder of #medtech startup Hemosonics and @dukeengineering director of #entrepreneurship, for speaking with my @dukeinnovation capstone class.
.
.
.
#entrepreneurship #startup #startups #innovation #inspirationalquotes #knowledgebomb
  • In today’s #socialmediamarketing class for @dukeinnovation, I agreed to give students extra credit if they could convince any celebrities to follow them on Twitter. One of my students was a bit more successful than I’d expected 😳
.
.
.
#entrepreneur #innovation #startup #marketing #hustle #impressive
  • Giving a 3 hour lecture to a wonderful group of Chinese students from Yangtze University visiting @dukeuniversity. We’ll be taking about #marketing #sales #startups #entrepreneurship  #innovation #socialmediamarketing and lots of other stuff that’ll probably put them to sleep. 😴.
.
P.S. It’s really hot in this room and we’re all sweating.
  • ‪“In a business, you can hire to solve almost any problem, but nobody can replace discovering the problem and finding the path toward solving it. That’s what an entrepreneur does.” ‬- Sam Fox, a brilliant young #entrepreneur and @dukeuniversity alum who came back to talk with my @dukeinnovation capstone class about his journey into healthcare innovation.
.
.
.
#entrepreneur #startup #innovation #healthtech #healthcare #guestspeaker

Follow Me!