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How To Politely Substitute an In-Person Meeting With A Conference Call

It’s no secret — some of the best deals and decisions are made across the conference room table. But is it possible to switch to a conference call without interrupting your workflow or negotiations?

Having face-to-face meetings is, unquestionably, one of the most effective ways to get the results you want, even in this digital age. You can avoid miscommunications and technology mishaps, and work tends to get done quicker when employees can meet together. And when the meeting topic is sensitive, like disciplinary action, meeting in person may be required.

Yet, there are times when meeting in person is just not possible. Business trips, multiple meetings scheduled, illness, and most recently, Covid-19 are all roadblocks that force people to meet digitally. But how do you ask for a digital meeting when you know an in-person meeting would be better?

Here are a few tips to use when asking someone to switch to a conference call or an online meeting. Our list includes ideas on how to ask for a separate conference call or online meeting or how to ask to be included digitally during an in-person meeting.

Be Courteous, Respectful, and Honest

In the Covid-19 era in which we live, we’re discouraged from meeting face-to-face. But many businesses are operating in person, and many essential workers haven’t left their worksites. Regardless of the reason, a conference call or online meeting could still work when meeting face-to-face isn’t an option.

When requesting a conference call or online meeting, be courteous and respectful. When contacting the meeting’s organizer, make sure you suggest times that work for you. Try saying, “I would be happy to meet with you via conference call. I’m available Thursday after 3 pm or Friday before 1 pm. What time would work best for you?”

Providing times to meet will give the other person options when rescheduling and accommodating a digital meeting. If they ask for a reason why you need to switch the meeting to a digital platform, be honest and forthcoming. You’ll find that most people are pretty understanding.

Be courteous, respectful, and honest

Coordinate Your Call

If you can, be flexible with their schedule and try to use whichever platform makes them comfortable. Remember that not everyone might be as tech-savvy as you.

Think about how many people will be on the call together. A simple phone call might do the trick. But if you’re needing to be on a video call, or if you want additional functions like screen-sharing for presentations, you might want to think about programs like Zoom or Google Meet.

Give the other people a few choices so they can use whatever they have the most experience with. If you’re willing to bend to what works for them, they might be more inclined to meet digitally, even if it’s not your preferred meeting method.

Before you start, make sure that everyone who plans to be on the call has any necessary meeting codes or passwords. It can also be helpful to send out a meeting agenda to keep everyone on track.

Coordinate your call

Ask to be Included Digitally During an In-person Meeting

If you can’t attend an in-person meeting that’s taking place, ask the meeting organizer if you can participate via conference call, video call, etc. They’ll notice your willingness to attend, and most people will do their best to help you feel included.

Ask the meeting organizer what your options are as soon as you know you can’t meet in person. Asking in advance can give them time to accommodate you while delaying to make arrangements might upset them. You still want people to feel like they can rely on you and know that you’re willing to do your assigned work, despite not being physically present.

Being included digitally during an in-person meeting can allow for collaboration — tasks can be accomplished without completely rescheduling the meeting for the other attendees. If your company prefers meeting in person, try not to make a habit of requesting to be included digitally unless you have a valid reason.

Ask to be included digitally

Suggest a Replacement Attendee

As a last resort, if you’re unable to make a digital meeting work, see if a coworker can attend in your place. But make sure the coworker you pick is available and up to date on the meeting’s topic. You don’t want to surprise your coworker with an additional meeting, especially if they already have meetings of their own.

When you’re letting a boss or client know that a coworker will be attending the meeting for you, it can be helpful to briefly state the coworker’s qualifications, if necessary. This can help others feel at ease and confident that their project is still in good hands.

You might want to block out time to prepare your coworker for the meeting. Getting them up to date on the meeting’s topic will be essential to have a smooth transition. Also, ask that your coworker takes detailed notes so that they can brief you after the meeting. You don’t want to miss vital information or assignments. They should be reliable enough to communicate any take-aways or action items with you after.

Before the meeting even begins, schedule a time for after the meeting when your replacement can catch you up. It can also be helpful to send an email to whomever you planned to meet with (ie. your boss, client, etc.), letting them know you’re still in the loop if they have any questions or concerns.

Suggest a replacement attendee

Last-Minute Meeting Plans

It can be challenging to rearrange meetings, especially if they’ve been planned for a while. But things happen, and sometimes it’s out of our control. Learning how to politely ask for an in-person meeting to be changed to a conference call or digital call, or even being added to an in-person meeting digitally can be daunting.

You don’t want to upset the other people involved, and you don’t want to miss the meeting altogether. By following our suggested tips and spending a little time planning your options for a conference call can make it an easy switch for everyone.

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By Audrey Horwitz

Audrey Horwitz holds a master's degree in communication and a bachelor's degree in business administration. She has worked with numerous companies as a content editor including Speechly, Compusignal and Wordflow. Audrey is a prolific content writer with hundreds of articles published for Medium, LinkedIn, Scoop.It and Article Valley.

One comment on “How To Politely Substitute an In-Person Meeting With A Conference Call”

  • Everything is very open with a really clear explanation of the issues.
    It was really informative. Your site is useful.
    Thank you for sharing!

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