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6 min read

How to nicely and politely exit a meeting

How to nicely exit a meeting?

  1. Use natural breaks in conversations to signal your exit
  2. Ask for agendas and updates to ascertain relevance 
  3. Apologize and leave the door open for future conversations 
  4. Signal time management as your top priority 
  5. Be respectful and courteous 
  6. Provide feedback on relevance to negate future misunderstandings
  7. Be as discreet as possible

When a meeting goes wrong

We’ve all been there. At some point during a conversation or meeting the penny drops that this engagement just might not be worth your time after all. Sometimes, even with the best of intentions, one can stumble upon a situation where it is soon revealed that pursuing any of the opportunities presented is just not in anyone’s best interest. These things happen, and as honesty is the best policy, sometimes bringing the proceedings to a halt and diverting attention to more suited things is the preferable option. 

Meetings are generally held to discuss prospects or create opportunities for future collaboration that is mutually beneficial to the parties involved. They are a great way to get multiple views on board and create a narrative that can sustain additional activity and buy-in. Meetings are supposed to be productive. So what do you do when you realize the meeting you’re involved in turns out to be nothing of the sort?

Well, it’s complicated. There is always a need to save face and maintain reputation, which would probably lead many people to grin and bear it and stick the meeting out. This is perfectly fine, and sometimes a subsequent email detailing how the meeting did not present immediately actionable items on your side is a great way to hit pause and renege on future developments for the time being. When time is of the essence, and you really don’t have time to spare on a meeting that you know is not immediately beneficial or relevant to you, you need additional measures to ensure you can exit a meeting without coming across as rude or abrasive. 

Tips for exiting meetings politely and gracefully

Exiting meetings that turn out to be irrelevant to you while maintaining professionalism and respect is essential to manage your time effectively and emerge with your reputation intact. Here are some tips for gracefully exiting such meetings:

Plan Ahead to Avoid Exiting Meetings

If you suspect that a meeting may not be relevant to your role or responsibilities, try to communicate your concerns with the organizer before the meeting or when the invitation is sent. Politely ask for clarification on your involvement.

Evaluate the Agenda Before Exiting Meetings

Review the meeting agenda or topics in advance. If you determine that there is no direct relevance to your role or contributions, consider discussing this with the organizer to see if your attendance can be excused.

Ask for an Agenda Update

In the beginning of the meeting, when the agenda is being discussed, politely inquire if there have been any changes or updates that may affect your involvement. This can provide an opportunity for clarification.

Offer an Apology for Exiting the Meeting

If you need to leave a meeting because it has become apparent that it's not relevant to you, apologize for any inconvenience caused and explain that you need to attend to other pressing matters. It’s never going to be an entirely comfortable experience or conversation, but best to get it out of the way with as much grace as possible while there’s still time. 

Propose Alternatives

If you're unable to attend the entire meeting but feel it might be relevant to someone else on your team, suggest that a colleague take your place or offer to share meeting notes afterward. You can also stall the meeting by postponing it or relegating it to a future slot that has less immediate pressures in terms of time constraints. 

Be Discreet

If you decide to leave the meeting, do so discreetly and without causing disruption. A swift exit is a mercy, a quiet one is a blessing.

Follow Up

After the meeting, reach out to the organizer or relevant colleagues to ensure that you didn't miss any important information or action items. This demonstrates your commitment to staying informed despite not attending the meeting. You can also gauge relevance by checking in with others if they found value in the meeting. 

Provide Feedback

If you find that you frequently end up in irrelevant meetings, consider providing constructive feedback to the organizer. Suggest improvements in meeting planning, agendas, or participant lists to make them more efficient. This is particularly useful when the matter of irrelevant meetings is a persistent problem. 

Set Boundaries

In the long term, consider setting clear boundaries regarding your attendance at meetings. Communicate your availability and the types of meetings that require your participation to avoid unnecessary invitations. A booking page is a great way to do this. 

Prioritize Time Management

Use the time saved from irrelevant meetings to focus on more productive tasks or responsibilities. Efficient time management is crucial for maintaining productivity.

Offer Solutions

If you believe there's a way to improve the relevance of the meetings you attend, share your suggestions with the organizer or team members. Your input can actually lead to more efficient and focused meetings in the future.

Remember that it's essential to exit irrelevant meetings respectfully and professionally. Your goal should be to optimize your time and contribute effectively to tasks that align with your role and responsibilities at any given point, so redundant meetings that detract from that should be minimized. Open and constructive communication with meeting organizers can also help reduce the likelihood of being invited to irrelevant meetings in the future, which is a win for all. 

How to prevent unnecessary meetings in future

We like to think that two of the best ways you can cut through the noise and identify relevance when meeting with others is through routing and qualification. 

By setting up a OnceHub form to help you to make sense of your incoming meeting requests and prospects, you can ask people the right questions at the right time so as to ascertain whether or not there are advantages to actually meeting with them. If you work in the advisory space, a few qualifying questions can make a huge difference in trying to scope out a potential client and make sure that you are the right fit, thereby negating potential awkwardness when you realize the opposite but you’re already in too deep. 

A chatbot is a great way to qualify, route visitors and provide information that can assist in illuminating key questions your visitors or customers may have. We often set up meetings hoping to explore certain topics or gain insight, but these meetings can often be relegated to email or chatbot conversations where the requisite information is only a click away. With a chatbot, you can create a conversational flow that mimics human interaction and still functions similarly, where everyone gets the info they need in a matter of seconds, no meeting required. 

Both of these features allow you a sense of discovery that can aid in preventing irrelevant meetings and saving precious time that can be better spent elsewhere. There’s no need to strategize a graceful meeting exit when you’re equipped with insight and context. 

Sign up today

To sign up for automated qualification and routing that can help to create context and relevance for your meetings, click here.