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Canceled meetings

MEETINGS, especially those prescribed by company by-laws or regulatory agencies, are set up in advance, checking the availability of attendees and the agenda to be taken up. VIPs with their busy schedules involving some financial crisis, visits from investors, appearances in congressional hearings, basketball playoff games, and local travel plans need to be consulted to set dates and times of availability. Such meetings with their meticulously coordinated schedules are hardly canceled, even with a few absences, as long as there is a quorum and a presiding officer.

However, not all meetings take place as scheduled.

Lunches for just “catching up” are easy enough to cancel — I must go swimming for my sciatica. Even when a long-planned get-together of old classmates has been set, cancellation is contemplated by the host when only the hangers-on have confirmed attendance.

A meeting is canceled at the last minute when the chair fails to show up and is not picking up his mobile calls. Secretaries who deal with such eventualities neither give any excuses nor offer any alibis for the absence — he’s simply not here, folks. The boss is unavailable, and the meeting must be rescheduled — you can finish up your longanisa and garlic rice.

Some meetings are randomly arranged. Maybe, someone mis-sends a text message about lunch for somebody else and an unintended party accepts, “You want to have lunch with me?” The sending party covers his blunder — so, when are you free next month? A few days before the meeting is to take place, one in the mismatched pair sends a message, “Can we reschedule again next month? I need to join a pilgrimage to the Holy Land.” This postponed get-together then falls outside the to-do list and then eventually forgotten. Neither party may find the need to resurrect the corpse of a wrong send.

Petitioners who arrange meetings with those who dispense favors invite the likelihood of having a supposedly firm commitment suddenly canceled. (Please check with my secretary.) Requests for an appeal fall on the deaf ears of an assistant who doesn’t even sound sympathetic. (Yes, Sir, I know you already got a ’60s rock band to provide the entertainment for your birthday, but the boss got invited to join an international delegation to promote the resettlement of orphans of war.)

When a meeting is called by a more powerful person summoning someone lower in the food chain, the event cannot just be canceled by the invitee. However, the higher-up can abruptly find such a meeting unnecessary — I’ll just send you an e-mail on the subject. There’s no need to meet. You can go ahead and get your open-heart surgery as scheduled.

When bumping into someone unexpectedly, the small talk is replete with old memories followed by vague promises of getting together sometime soon. This ambiguous commitment is a meeting that is unlikely to even take place. No specific date is set — See you sometime soon?

Canceled meetings are like gifts of time, but only for those with busy schedules. There is suddenly a chunk of two hours freed up in the calendar that can be put to good use by arranging yet another meeting with another person who may, however, not be available at such short notice.

Frequently canceling meetings is a bad habit. It is very discourteous and does not value the time of other people. It’s even worse than always being late for appointments. The routine occurrence of last-minute changes of plans then attaches to someone justly perceived as a “canceller.” If meetings with this person seldom materialize, setting any date with him is considered wasteful. (Call me when you’re free and if I’m also available, we can cancel together.)

The farther away a meeting has been scheduled, the greater the likelihood of its being canceled, unless it’s a wedding. Conversely, the more hurriedly an appointment is set up, the more likely it will take place. So, a meeting set for the next day is likely to go ahead.

Certain meetings are seldom canceled, maybe even moved earlier with glee. (Can we make it noontime rather than 3 p.m.?) These entail mutually exhilarating prospects. The meeting doesn’t appear on the appointment calendar. And neither is there a photo taken by the waiter — closer together please.


Tony Samson is chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda

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