When planning a meeting, it can be hard to know who to invite. You need to get this question right, or increase your risk of a meeting train-wreck.
There are usually a few people who are obvious participants. They are absolutely necessary. If you can’t get them, you may as well not have the meeting.
You don’t want to waste their time
Then there are those you think might contribute, but you’re not sure. Should you invite them?
If you do, and it turns out that they weren’t a good choice, you’ve wasted their time.
You don’t want them to create problems
In addition, people who either don’t want to be there or don’t know why they are in your meeting will create big problems for you.
I’ve seen this play out many times. Trust me on this one. You want to prevent this situation.
It’s all about the choice
Far too often when receiving meeting invitations, people assume they have no choice but to attend. The only negotiation involved is finding a mutually acceptable time.
So when you are absolutely sure you need certain people for a particular meeting, you should tell them so and why they are so critical to the meeting’s success. For everyone else, give them a choice.
Ask them what they think
Here’s how to do it. Ideally, you call the person and talk through what you have in mind for the meeting, and then you say, “I think you’d add value to this meeting, but I don’t want to waste your time if I’m wrong. What do you think?”
Because making phone calls seems to have ended in the 20th century, here’s another approach. Send out the invite to everyone you think should attend. Make sure it contains clear goals and objectives. It should also detail the plan for achieving the objectives.
Just like on the phone, you make it clear that attendance is optional. Add this statement: I want to make sure I’ve invited the right people. If you think this meeting would not be a good use of your time, please let me know.
They might have a better idea
In addition, you might ask your invitees if there are others you may have missed who should be invited. It’s possible that you overlooked someone who really would have a lot to offer and plenty of compelling reasons to be in the meeting.
Dial back your concern
Let me take a whack at what you’re thinking right now. If I make the meeting optional, what if nobody comes? That’s a good question. I’ll answer it with a question that trumps yours. If your meeting has a worthwhile purpose and solid plan, why wouldn’t people choose to attend?