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Meeting Planning Over Email with Americans

Posted On: May 30, 2019

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 and/or for meetings that are not regularly scheduled).

 

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!
Collaborating and negotiating meeting
times is an art form!

Sample e-mail (you receive this on a Monday morning):

Sini, 

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.

Regards,

Frank (US Client)

 

How to Answer this Kind of Request
What kind of answer is expected?

  • Select your one preferred time
  • Tell all times you are available but re order based on your priority
  • Time line- respond within 24 business hours or LESS especially when working across time zones.

How NOT to answer this:

  • Say OK
  • Say anything is fine
  • Don’t respond (a response is a must)

What happens if none of the choices provided work?

  • Possibly your team can have only a few team members join and take notes to share with the person who missed, so coordinate the best time based on the majority who are available
  • Suggest different times that may work and see how they respond. Again, if you suggest times, give at least two choices, three is best. Even if it is that you want to have the start time pushed up or back by 30 minutes, ensure that this is clearly noted in your request/response.

 

Reason for this:

When you select the top one, two or prioritize all three in your order of preference it shows to a US counterpart how you value your time. Not only that you value your time, but that you do have other commitments and won’t be available at the drop of a hat (anytime they call you to be available).

Setting the precedent with this type of request sets the general overall tone for meeting planning in general, as long as you stick to it in both responding and making your own requests.

When you are able to continue with the meeting despite someone being absent, this shows your team coordination and communication to be strong IF and WHEN your team takes notes and shares it with the person who couldn’t attend.

When you mention different time slots and mention the reason why – such as the key person is only available earlier or later or another important and relevant reason, this shows how you are leveraging your planning and critical thinking skills and also showing the client/colleague that your team is trying their best to balance priorities.

 

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. It is not always necessary to answer it at 1am IST, but it is important to answer it as soon as you can after you enter the office the next morning, maybe by 11am IST so they can plan accordingly for their EST or US morning time.

Example response sent Monday at 9am. (Respond by hitting “reply” and double checking the subject line for accuracy.)

 

Frank,

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 IST. I will confirm this by the end of the business day today (6pm IST) after I check with the rest of my team.



Thank you,
Regards,

Sini

 

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.

Also note that it’s important to write what time is the end of business day (EOD) as saying ‘end of business day’ means different things to different people.

 

Step 3: Responding with Confirmation or Changes

Meeting time confirmed-  (Sent Tuesday morning, time stamp 9am.)

Frank,

Good day. I am writing back again to confirm the meeting. We shall join the Zoom call tomorrow, Tuesday, January 3 at 7:30pm IST. 

Thank you.
Regards,

Sini

 

 

Meeting time not confirmed– (Sent Tuesday morning, time stamp 9am.)

Frank,

Good day.

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 IST is still tentative. I will write back to confirm or deny this by tomorrow morning 11am Indian business time.

Regards,
Sini

 

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.

 

Responding with a priority list of time slots

Frank,

Hello! I hope you had a good weekend. Thank you for sharing a few different time slots that work for you. We happen to be available for two of the time slots, which I have listed below in order of priority.

  1. Tuesday, January 3, 7:30pm IST
  2. Wednesday, January 4, 4:30pm IST

After you select, feel free to send the calendar invite and Zoom link.

Thank you,

Sini

 

Small Talk Tip:

Always add in small talk. I like to call most of the small talk you see in these messages work-related small talk, as it relates to talking about time management or project coordination. Of course, we also have personal small talk with sentences like “I hope you had a nice weekend.”

While this makes the messages longer, it also can warm them up to make them feel more like a conversation than a dry request.

 

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.

 

Bonus Tip:

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).


Conclusion
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.

 

Learn more through our Email Writing Program and Building Trust and Good Relations With US Americans (Small Talk Training).

 

Related Posts:
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, March 2024

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