Seven Secrets to Missing a Meeting

09/10/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Marc Hershon Branding expert and co-author of the business book "I Hate People!"; host of "Succotash", the Comedy Podcast Podcast

Even though the smart Soloist often hates meetings, a lot of people love them. Meetings give the illusion that the least industrious in your organization are actually doing something. Which means Corporate America's plague of status updates, mid-project reviews and interdepartmental interfacing isn't going to diminish anytime soon.

Just because meetings happen doesn't mean you have to have your butt planted in every single one of them. Some meetings for you will be active -- you need to be an interested and engaged party. Many other meetings are likely to be passive -- those corporate confabs where you are using more concentration to stay awake than to follow the agenda.

Your key to getting more of your time back is to focus on those passive meetings...then start finding ways to skip them. Or, if you have to be there, change the nature of the meetings themselves.

1. Phone It In
Whenever possible, try to attend a passive meeting -- especially those difficult to miss -- via phone instead of in person. While you're still technically involved, you'll be able to get a ton of extra work done thanks to your new best friend: The Mute Button. Just don't forget to UNmute when they call your name.

2. Boss First
Cook up a great side project the boss can get behind. With his blessings, you'll be amazed at how many of the everyday, no-need-to-there happenings that you can bail on because you need time to do research, legwork or face-time with the boss for your "special project".

3. Got Another Meeting
Meeting planning software was supposed to eliminate meetings that run into, over and at the same time as other meetings. Thankfully the crush of business and technology frequently fail in the crush of last-minute project fire alarms. If you must, head up your own meeting to sidestep one you don't need to be in.

4. Conference Call Rescue
Sometimes the best way to miss a meeting is to be there at the start and apologize by saying that you have to take a conference call in fifteen minutes. Return just before the scheduled end of the meeting and ask what you missed. This is like getting the CliffsNotes for the class without having to read the book.

5. Deadline Diversion
There's nothing like dropping the d-word to get you out of a meeting. Drop by early, let a couple of people know you're sweating a deadline and will try to make it by... but it's going to be tough.

6. Coffee Run
A meeting can always use fresh coffee. Graciously volunteer to go grab it, and you can brew it, collect up cups, sugar and cream. Not a big break, but enough time for a breather or to crank out a few emails. And people will appreciate you for bringing the caffeine.

7. Swine Flu Recovery
While the latest wannabe pandemic is both raging and all the rage, now's the time to take advantage. With a few well-placed coughs, sniffles and sneezes, you can hoarsely announce that you don't think you're contagious but to be on the safe side, it's better to remain isolated in your cube away from the general population for a while.