A DRAMATIC improvement to your event.
Thursday May 25th 2017



What to say when you are late to a meeting

What to say when you are lateYou’re late, you’re rushing and it seems that people and things are not cooperating with your schedule.  Why won’t they get our of your way?!

Finally you arrive at the meeting, slightly out of breath.  You burst into the room, everyone looks up and you begin a familiar pattern:  Apology followed by details about why you were late (alternating between how busy you are and how everyone messed up and got in your way).  Minutes later your heart beat settles back to normal and the meeting gets back on course.

Simple Concept:  If the meeting is important and you are an important part of it:  leave enough time to get there on time (which generally means early).

Easy to say…and often you have the intention of leaving enough time…but…but…but.  Here is the way to handle being late in the future.

Simpler Concept: If you do arrive late…leave the drama outside.

The meeting is already underway….the meeting is more important that you are.  Find a way to settle down and slip into the meeting instead of forcing the meeting to match your frantic emotional state.

Here’s how to arrive late:
  • On the way to the meeting realize the your arrival time has already been determined.  Speeding in traffic and running down hallways will only make you more anxious not really affect your arrival time.  And even if it does (which it won’t) you’ll arrive sweaty and anxious …which are probably not the best parts of you.
  • On the way to the meeting begin to check in about your emotional state.  Take a few deep breaths and tell yourself that you need to adapt yourself to the work at hand not hi-jack the meeting to your drama.  Open the door slowly and join the meeting.  Resist the temptation to rush in and grab a seat.  Match the energy in the room…and get yourself into an open mindset focused on joining the meeting in progress.
    • What to say:  As little as possible.  If anything a simple and short recognition of your late arrival.

Follow these two steps and you’ll be more productive and a better team member.  And who knows….you may start arriving early.

About: William Hall:
William Hall is an actor, trainer and improviser living in San Francisco, CA. He works with companies to engage and involve audiences at Trade Shows, Conferences and Training Sessions. He is a founder of BATS Improv and the author of The Playbook: Improv Games for Performers.

Reader Feedback

6 Responses to “What to say when you are late to a meeting”

  1. William, these are good recommendations. Not just for business meetings, but in other parts of one’s life. taking a moment to check-in with one’s emotions can save a lot of misplaced behavior later. We can’t always control the events and conditions of the world, but we can control our management of them. Thanks for a great blog!

  2. Dan Klein says:

    Yes. Exactly. The trick is to enter respectfully, while not hijacking the meeting. Beware of ‘aloof’ when avoiding ‘frantic’.
    Thanks, William!

  3. Ken Newman says:

    This is a great piece. Very good advice. I have rarely seen anyone enter a meeting late using this approach. Most of the time, it’s a full theatrical entrance that stops the meeting dead in its tracks.

    Of course, I, myself, have NEVER been late to a meeting. But if by some chance, it should happen, this is how I’ll handle my entrance.


  4. Ed Alter says:

    Nice William. I learned long ago that my drama was a defense mechanism against looking bad in front of my client. Demonstrating enough personal frustration showed that I was sorry without having to say so.

    Taking stock of my emotional state works well, and the relaxing breaths help a lot too. I’ve even waited and stopped myself from going into a meeting until I’ve calmed down. It makes the meeting better for me and the group.

    Bottom line for me, I always get to meetings early so that even when I’m running late, I’m still on time.

  5. Tess says:

    Excellent advice, especially the emotional check/tuck in.
    Emotional incontinence is one of the major problems of daily life! Our own or that of others.

    Additional tip: enter the room on a slow outbreath…

    Thanks William!

  6. Teresa says:

    Great tips, William. I agree with the notion that coming in overly apologetic will ‘fix’ the situation is a misguided one. It can read as a reverse form of egotism, as you point out in terms of ‘making the drama all about us’. It also undermines our confidence and status to enter groveling, making it difficult for us to contribute effectively and be taken seriously in whatever discussion is unfolding. Your suggestion that we offer a brief apology and just take a seat is a sound one. I would add that we then need to concentrate on being present and listening. It is easy to find ourselves present and yet absent because we are locked in our heads, playing out all sorts of mental scenarios, consequences, assumptions about what other people are thinking about us. At whatever point we arrive in the meeting, what best serves us is to enter with a dignified apology, sit quietly until we ‘catch up’ with what is happening in the room.

Leave a Reply