Question: How long do you wait when someone is late for a meeting?

How long do you wait when someone is late for a meeting?

Now personally, I think it depends very much on whether they apologise.  We all get held up in traffic occasionally, so it’s not a huge deal if it’s less than 15 minutes.  As a virtual assistant, traffic is less of an issue for me!

If you are going to be more than 15 minutes late, I believe you should phone the person to apologise and offer to reschedule, and also not be surprised if they need to cut your meeting short in order to keep themselves on time for later appointments.

Being late always strikes me as being rude because essentially what you are saying is “My time is more important than your time, so I’ll keep you waiting”.  For years in the music industry I endured this stupid ego trip game of keeping people waiting in reception…  No more!

I know a couple of small business owners who are perennially late for meetings – because they’ve packed 5 into one day.  Whilst I value the face-to-face benefits of meetings, I’d question whether they are all necessary.  Wouldn’t we all get more done if we cut out the travel time and increased the effectiveness of meetings?

As a VA, I believe most meetings can be done virtually with more effectiveness and less time.  So here’s my meeting avoidance tactics:

  • Invariably someone will request a meeting, I’ll agree to it but explain that the time is chargeable.  The minute you implement this one change, meetings become a) less necessary and b) more effective. My time is money, therefore I charge for it.  Your time is money too – entertaining me is not getting your mortgage paid!
  • Alternatively I offer them a free phone consultation – we book it in the diary.  Telephone meetings have several advantages over face2face meetings.  They cut out travel time, they still have the formality of allocating diary space to discuss a subject properly, and you have your tools to hand to reference diaries/online resources/files thus eliminating extra follow up work.  If the meeting gets cancelled or rescheduled, then I’m not facing downtime whilst it gets sorted out, I can go straight back to work.
  • We can also add in telephone conferencing with several people or screen sharing so you can see what we’re talking about – all fantastic tools which facilitate virtual working.
  • If a meeting is still necessary, I will draw up a proper agenda and send it to them along with a list of the resources I think I will need.  E.g. if it’s a meeting to discuss marketing widgets, I’ll ask them for previous widget marketing plans to be sent over before the meeting so I can review them beforehand.  The agenda also helps keep everyone on schedule and can sometimes even eliminate the need for the meeting itself as people crack on with preparation before the meeting and have everything to hand so a decision can be made.

So – how long would you wait for a delayed meeting?  Until the allocated end time?  20 minutes? Perhaps it depends on the importance of the person you are meeting?