It can happen to the best of us. Despite careful planning, there is a last minute phone call, one last email that must be sent, unexpected traffic … you are late for a meeting. So how do you handle it?
To begin with, keep in mind that no one is interested in excuses, not even your mother. Keep them to yourself.
If you are meeting with one other person, offer a sincere apology and move on with the purpose of your meeting.
If it is a small group, again, offer the apology and then listen quietly to catch up with the conversation. Do not ask the others to recap what has already been discussed; you should have been there to hear it the first time. If necessary, ask someone to clarify information for you afterwards.
In regards to larger meetings, I have noticed an interesting trend; participants don’t seem to be as concerned about arriving on time, perhaps thinking they won’t be noticed in the crowd? When they do arrive, they noisily greet people, wave at friends, create a disturbance as they find seating, and even get upset because the refreshments are not fully stocked and waiting. (This behavior has been noticed at smaller meetings as well.)
The result? Attention is drawn away from the speaker, the proceedings are interrupted and the late arrival becomes the focus of the room. Is this how you would like to be recognized?
- If possible, remove your coat and paraphernalia prior to entering the room so that you can slip easily and quietly into a nearby seat with little to no fidgeting.
- Refrain from waving at others or “mouthing” messages to friends across the room … save it for after the meeting.
- Women, if there is not a chair available, don’t stand and look helpless, hoping someone will help you. Either help yourself or stand quietly in the back of the room.
- Skip the trip to the coffee pot or muffin table; that was supposed to happen before the meeting began.
The idea is to arrive as quietly and with the least amount of disturbance to others as possible. And in future, aim to be on time — or better yet, a few minutes early!
Arriving five minutes early for an appointment or meeting allows you to collect your thoughts and be prepared. It shows you value your time and respect those you are meeting with.
It also provides you with extra time needed to get that cup of coffee and connect with others, which is what networking is all about!