It's highly likely that not all the people that you invite to a meeting will come. Although for some meetings this may not really be that important, for some it will be.

So, for those important meetings where you think somebody should attend, what can you do if say they can't go? Do you speak to their manager or send an email to them where you force or demand that they come?

Although this may work, it'll just make the person resent you, or worse, it could make a new enemy at work. Neither of which is ideal. So what can you do?

There are two ways of getting them to attend:

  • Offer to change the meeting time or date
  • Persuade them to change their mind

To be honest, offering to change the time and/or date of a meeting for just one or two people is not ideal for obvious reasons, but it is an option. The second option is better. But how do you persuade somebody to suddenly change their mind and decide to go? The simple answer is, 'you have to manipulate them'.

Most people are worried about their jobs in some way. They may be worried about the possibility of losing it or in damaging their career prospects. So if you want to get somebody to change their mind and attend a meeting they said they couldn't go to, you have to use these fears. Convince them that it is in their best interest to attend the meeting.

In this online exercise on writing business emails, I'll both show you and explain the purpose of three emails in English that you can use when you want to persuade somebody to attend a meeting they said they couldn't go to. In addition, we'll also look at some useful vocabulary and phrases that you can use in your own emails.

Please be aware, that using these type of emails won't be successful 100% of the times you try, but you'll get more people attending meetings than if you didn't use them.

In addition, I don't recommend that you use these tactics all the time. You should only use them in situations where you think it's important that the people come.


Exercise & Examples:

In the following 3 emails, Sue Jenkins is trying to persuade three different people to attend a meeting on an IT problem who had said they couldn't come. Each of the emails takes a different tactic to convince the person to attend.

Look at the emails and think about how email is trying to persuade the person to attend. Then from the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Email 1

Hi Jeff,

Thanks for getting back to me about the meeting.

I appreciate that you're very busy at the moment. As I said in the invitation I sent you, in the meeting were going to be looking at the problems we've had with the loss of customer data. To be honest, we still don't know the full extent. We may have lost the data for 1,000 customers or 500,000. In addition, there is also some indications that it could have been stolen.

As you can imagine, no matter what the cause, it's going to have major consequences on the company. That why we need to be fully prepared for any eventuality. And that's the reason why we felt that your attendance was necessary.

If you could reconsider attending the meeting, we'd all appreciate it.

Regards,

Sue Jenkins

Email 2

Hi Dan,

Thanks for getting back to me about the meeting.

It's a shame that you can't attend the meeting on Thursday. You'll be the only person invited that won't be attending (The director of customer services has also asked to attend).

It would have been an excellent opportunity to have all the relevant areas together to see how we can quickly deal with this problem and limit the consequences.

It's highly likely that we'll have to organise another meeting when you can be available. I'll discuss this with the attendees in the meeting and let you know what they think.

Regards,

Sue Jenkins

Email 3

Hi Sally,

Thanks for letting me know that you can't attend the meeting on Friday afternoon.

I've spoken to the other attendees (Paul Daniels, Keith Richards etc...) and we've all agreed that we can move the meeting to a time and date which is more suitable for your schedule.

Please advise me of a time and a date which is more suitable for your schedule.

Regards,

Sue Jenkins


Click to see more email/letter exercises & examples


Quiz:

Below is a definition/description of each of the words/phrases in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, this icon will appear next to the answer. Click on it to find extra information about the word/phrase (e.g. when, where and how to use etc...).


1.

A phrase that tells the person that everybody except them is going to the meeting, is

     

You'll be the only person invited that won't be attending:
(phrase) One of the tactics that you can use to convince a person to go to a meeting they said that can't go to is through 'peer pressure'. The opinions that others in the organisation have of a person can have as much importance in gaining promotion (or not getting demoted) as their performance can do.

You can use this in your email to persuade the person to attend the meeting by telling them everybody invited as agreed to attend. This will make their absence at the meeting more noticeable than if two or more people didn't go (which they will realise). It will also get them thinking about what the other people attending may think about them not going.

If somebody very important in the organisation is going to the meeting (e.g. a director etc...) say that they are in the email. The person may not care what people of a similar level think about them, but they will with somebody who is more senior (higher up) in the organisation than they are.

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2.

A reason why the meeting is important to attend, is

     

Going to have major consequences on the company:
(phrase) The reason why people decide to do things in life is that in some way they see doing them to be in their best interest. This is especially the case at work where people will do things to either improve their prospects inside of the company or to prevent their prospects being damaged.

When trying to get somebody to attend a meeting, you should try to persuade them it is in their best interests to attend. Give reasons why the meeting is important and in particular why it is important for them. This will make them start to question what they could lose by not going.

The reasons you can give will vary depending on the type of meeting and the person you are trying to convince to come. For example, to a manager of department, you could say that you are going to be discussing departmental funding for the following year.

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3.

A phrase used to tell the person that you've decided to change the time/date of the meeting so they can go, is

     

We've all agreed that we can move the meeting:
(phrase) An excuse that people often give to not attend a meeting is that they are busy at the time of the meeting (e.g. they are attending another meeting, they are out of the office etc...). If you believe they are not telling the truth, one of the options you have if you want to get them to attend the meeting is to tell them that you are willing to change the time and date of the meeting to one where they can go. This means that they no longer have a valid excuse not to attend it.

In many cases you will find that the person will agree to attend the meeting on the original time and date (so not to annoy the other people going), but in others they will suggest a different time and date. As you can imagine, changing the time and date of the meeting to suit the needs of one person is neither ideal for you (it requires more work) or for the other people who have agreed to attend (some of them may not be able to attend ). So be aware of this before you use this tactic.

When you use this phrase, you begin by saying you've spoken to the other people going. This is followed by the phrase. Then at the end you say 'to a time and date which is more suitable for your schedule'.

For example:

'I've spoken to the other attendees and we've all agreed that we can move the meeting to a time and date which is more suitable for your schedule.'

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4.

When you tell the person that because they can't attend, you'll have to arrange an additional meeting for everybody (including them) to go to, is

     

It's highly likely that we'll have to organise another meeting:
(phrase) Most people don't like going to meetings. It means using time which they can use to do other things they have to do in their jobs. So, the idea of having to attend two meetings instead of one, is not one which most people will be happy about.

If you tell the person that are you having to organise an additional meeting only because they can't go to the meeting that you invited them to, it will make them reconsider their earlier decision not to attend.

The reason why is that they'll think that many of the other attendees will blame them for having to go to a second meeting. And by writing 'I'll discuss this with the attendees in the meeting and let you know' in the email after 'it's highly likely that we'll have to organise another meeting' will leave no doubt in their mind that they'll be the one who is blamed.

And as the opinions that others in an organisation have of a person can have as much importance in them gaining promotion (or not getting demoted) as their performance can do, they may not want to annoy them.

You can use this tactic even if you have no intention of holding of a second meeting just so the person can go. This is because in the phrase 'it's highly likely that we'll have to organise another meeting', you don't say a second meeting will happen, but that it is probable ('it's highly likely').

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5.

A phrase that means you can understand the reason why a person can't attend the meeting, is

     

I appreciate that you're very busy:
(phrase) When you are trying persuade somebody to attend a meeting they they said they can't attend, the worse thing you can do is to be confrontational with them. Instead, you need to show that you empathize with the reason why they can't attend. It makes you sound reasonable and makes them more willing to listen to what you have to say. And this is important when trying to make somebody do something you want them to do.

The phrase 'I appreciate that you're very busy' is used to show empathy. You would use this phrase if the person has said that they have too much work to attend (e.g. an urgent deadline to meet etc...). If the person has said that they can't attend because they have a prior arrangement (e.g. another meeting etc...), you can use 'it's a shame that you can't attend the meeting' instead.

You should use either of these phrases at the beginning of the email (directly after you thanked them for replying to your original email). Then after either of the phrases, you would then start to try to persuade them why they should change their minds and go to the meeting.

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6.

A phrase that is basically used to explain to the person why they were invited to the meeting, is

     

And that's the reason why we felt that:
(phrase) After explaining why the meeting is important (and specifically for them), you should explain to them that those were the reasons why you wanted them to attend.

And this is what the phrase 'and that's the reason why we felt that' is used to do. When you use it, you should follow it by writing 'your attendance at the meeting was important/necessary'.

For example:

'And that's the reason why we felt that your attendance at the meeting was important'

Hopefully, they should already be convinced that it's in their best interest to attend before they read it. But if they aren't, by writing 'we' instead of 'I' in the phrase should convince them that they should go. The reason why, is that it makes it sound that not just you, but unknown others will be disappointed if they don't go. And the opinions of others is an important motivation in making all of us do things.

After writing this, you would ask them to reconsider going to the meeting by writing 'If you could reconsider attending the meeting, we'd all appreciate it' at the very end.

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7.

A phrase used to ask the person to tell you when they want to change the meeting to, is

     

Please advise me of a time and a date which is more suitable for your schedule:
(phrase) If you use the tactic of offering to change the time/date of a meeting to get the person to attend, you need to ask them what time and date they would like to go to the meeting to.

I wouldn't suggest that you offer alternative times in which they can change the meeting to. Unless it is very urgent, I would leave it to the person to suggest times themselves. The reason why you would do this, is that they'll have to suggest a time and date. If they don't, it will be obvious that are just trying to avoid going to the meeting.

This is what the phrase 'please advise me of a time and a date which is more suitable for your schedule' is used to ask for.

If the meeting is urgent, you can specify certain dates which the meeting can be held on and let them suggest a time. In this case, you would the write, 'please advise me of a time on either the 23rd or 24th which is more suitable for your schedule'.

But be aware that by even suggesting dates, you run the risk of them saying they are busy on the days you have offered.

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8.

A phrase which is used to start an email where you are trying to persuade somebody to attend a meeting, is

     

Thanks for getting back to me about the meeting:
(phrase) It is really important when trying to persuade a person to attend a meeting they said that they can't go to, that you thank them for telling you they can't go. This is not only out of politeness, but it makes you sound reasonable. And by sounding reasonable, it will make them more willing to listen to what you have to say. This is important when trying to make somebody do something you want them to do.

When you thank them for replying, make sure that it's both the first thing you write in the email and it doesn't sound formal (so use 'thanks for' instead 'thank you for'). In my experience, it's easier to persuade somebody to do something if you use a style of vocabulary in the email that you would do when writing an email to a friend or somebody you know well.

There are various phrases that you can thank the person for replying. For example, you could say 'thanks for letting me know that you can't attend the meeting on Friday' or 'thanks for getting back to me about the meeting'. Which you choose to use doesn't make any difference.

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9.

A phrase where you re-invite the person to come to the meeting, is

     

If you could reconsider attending the meeting, we'd all appreciate it:
(phrase) In an email where you try to persuade the person to come to the meeting by explaining what they will benefit from it (or lose from not attending), you should finish it by asking them to change their mind about going.

I would recommend that when you are persuading them to go (when giving reasons why attending is very important for them), you don't make any suggestion about them changing their mind and going to the meeting. Focus in this part on giving reasons why the meeting will be important for them.

You should only ask them to reconsider their decision not to come at the very end of the email. By this time, they should have realised themselves that it is in their best interest that they should go and be ready to accept.

When you do ask them, don't make it sound like an order. Instead make it sound like a suggestion and tell them how grateful you would be if they did go. And this is what the phrase 'If you could reconsider attending the meeting, we'd all appreciate it' does.

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Practice

Now that you understand what to do and the vocabulary, practise it by writing your own email in English to persuade somebody attend a meeting with the new words/phrases.