Join the meeting revolution – hit ‘Tentative’

When you receive your next meeting invitation on Outlook, try something different. Instead of automatically clicking on ‘Accept’, try ‘Tentative’. I’m suggesting that you experiment with something that could become a new habit.
After all accepting meeting invitations isn’t in the same category as paying your taxes or observing the rules of the road. You don’t have to attend every meeting you are invited to. You are paid to be a responsible member of the team. You are paid to think and make good decisions. You are paid to assess your workload and deliver it in a diligent and timely fashion.
What clause in your contract compels you to spend 50% of your time in meetings? Why does it make sense to attend three meetings back to back?
And this meeting at 2pm tomorrow: what evidence is there that it has been planned carefully? What is the agenda, and more precisely the key purpose? Why have 13 people been invited, when it probably only needs six? How much time are we going to waste trying to patch in Patrice on that dodgy line from Mumbai? Have further meetings been scheduled to progress the project?
Who will lead the meeting? Tom? He seems to be incapable of controlling the meeting wreckers, based on what happened at the last two meetings. Or Fiona? She is so controlling that no-one can get a word in. The invitees are supposed to be members of the same team, but on recent evidence teamwork is unlikely to be a feature. In the unlikely event that the meeting does make progress, who is going to be responsible for selling the outcome upwards, downwards, and to the people who couldn’t make it?
You can probably predict the way this meeting will go as well as or better than the colleague whose assistant issued the invitations. So don’t accept. The meeting isn’t going to achieve much, and you could do with the time. Click on ‘Tentative’ to give you time to think, and send it immediately to flag the message that you may not be coming. Provided you are sure the sky is not going to fall in – and why should it, it’s only one meeting for goodness sake – follow it up with a graceful, but firm, ‘Decline’.
You’ve taken the first step on the road to meeting revolution. You have won yourself two hours to do some real work tomorrow. You’ll get home on time. The family will be amazed. You will be less stressed, and next week you can start coaching your boss and fellow team members on how to adopt the Mote: The Super Meeting system.

This is David’s January blog for the Marketing Society. Read more at