While it is always easier to plan meetings in live conversations, now more than ever, meetings are getting planned through emails and other written forms of communication (IM, slack channels, etc). Due to this, it is good to know how meeting planning over email tends to happen with US Americans (if you don’t have access to their calendar, of course).
One may believe meeting planning falls under global professional etiquette. In my experience, however, I have noticed differences in meeting planning across cultures, which makes sense as different national cultures view time differently. For those working remotely with US Americans from outside of the USA, let’s take a look at how US Americans plan meetings.
In special cases where meetings are high priority, urgent, or scheduled or rescheduled based on our availability simply pressing no on a meeting invite is not the ideal way of declining such requests. While there are many different kinds of meeting requests and refusal responses, let’s take a look at one example while applying strategies that can be used to decline any meeting in a collaborative, professional way.
The client wants to meet only with you or maybe with a few other stakeholders, but you are a key player in this meeting. The client offers you a few different meeting times, and you aren’t yet sure which one fits into your schedule. How do you respond?
Step 1: You Receive and Read the E-mail
|Collaborating and negotiating meeting
times is an art form!
Sample e-mail (you receive this on a Monday morning):
Greetings. Hope you are well.
We would like to plan an additional status meeting this week to discuss some of the approaching deadlines. I have listed below a few times I am free to meet with you. Please confirm which one you can attend.
Tuesday, January 3, 5pm IST
Tuesday, January 3, 7:30pm IST
Wednesday, January 4, 4:30pm IST
I’ll be looking forward to your confirmation as soon as possible.
Frank (US Client)
How to Answer this Kind of Request
Take note that the client would respond to confirm only ONE of the suggested times (if he or she offers two solutions, most likely they are prioritized). If you get a request like this NEVER request the client to set aside all times, chose only one. It’s like a multiple choice test, choose the best of three and confirm that. Once confirmed, that is the set meeting time.
Step 2: Considering a Response
How do you respond when you read this Monday at 9am when you enter the office? The problem is that you are not yet sure when you can meet. Do you let the client know you’re not sure, or wait until you have a time confirmed?
Sometimes the problem with waiting to confirm a time is that you will not be able to confirm the time until Tuesday, and then a whole business day has passed without communicating with the US client. This will make the client uncomfortable, nervous and will make him think you are not being responsible in attending to your e-mails. This will not build trust. It is not a good idea for rapport building with US clients. (This can also be the case for any Indians onsite with clients as they will need to see clients directly at the office. Respond as proactively with your onsite contacts as you would directly with the US client.)
Answer the email immediately (they will see the time stamp) with your tentative status.
Example response sent Monday at 9am. (Respond by hitting “reply” and double checking the subject line for accuracy.)
Happy Monday! Hope you had a nice weekend.
I am glad you emailed me to initiate this meeting. Our team does have a lot of updates to share.
My first reaction is to choose Tuesday, January 3rd at 7:30pm. I will confirm this by the end of the business day today.
Sini will need to respond to this email thread once again at the end of the business day whether or not the meeting is confirmed.
Step 3: Responding with Confirmation or Changes
-Meeting time confirmed- (Sent Tuesday morning, time stamp 9am.)
Good day. I am writing back again to confirm the meeting. We shall be ready on the conference call tomorrow, Tuesday, January 3 at 7:30pm. I will look forward to seeing the agenda.
-Meeting time not confirmed– (Sent Tuesday morning, time stamp 9am.)
I was discussing this meeting with the other colleagues who will have to attend, and they are also confirming the time. As of now the time – Tuesday, January 3rd at 7:30 is still tentative. I will write back to confirm or deny this by tomorrow morning Indian business time.
Sini will need to write back to confirm or deny the meeting 9am Indian time the next business morning. If the meeting is confirmed, the answer is straightforward. If it is not, confirm the third time given, or suggest another time. It’s better, though to accept other times originally given than adding new times.
What NEVER to do
NEVER avoid responding if you don’t know when to meet. ALWAYS respond to these emails in a timely way (within a few hours of seeing it). The clients are taking the time to ask for your time. This is a serious request for an American. They will wait in anticipation for your response. If there is no response, they will think you simply are not reading or caring to respond to your emails. This does not set a good impression.
Learn how to set up and send calendar invites across time zones (see this tutorial). If you are working with a US American as a service provider, it’s expected that the service provider is the one to initiate calendar invites as soon as the time is agreed upon, even if the meeting is weeks or months from today. Also, when receiving calendar invites, respond as soon as you get it, even if the meeting is not for weeks or months (it’s meant to hold the spot on the calendar much in advance).
The lesson in this email is to proactively keep in touch with your US counterparts or points of contact in the US to keep communication flowing regularly. We provide tailored coaching to your offshore teams on email skills, meeting management with US clients, working on cross-cultural virtual teams and more. Contact us to discuss further.
Things to NOT do in business e-mails
Confidently Drive Client Meetings (When It’s New to You)
Declining Holiday Invitations, Party Invites from US Americans
Updated July 2015, May 2019
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