Picture this: you wake up on a Monday morning ready to conquer the week. As you make your morning coffee, your dog starts whimpering and you realize they’re unwell. Or maybe you aren’t so chipper on this particular Monday. Perhaps you’ve woken up feeling under the weather or have looked outside to discover that mother nature didn’t know you had planned on making a long commute to the office when she brought several inches of snow to your city. 

No matter how well you’ve planned your work calendar, you’re bound to need to reschedule a meeting every now and then. As a team player, you’ll want to notify those whom you know planned on attending of any last minute changes. Don’t fret– life happens and rescheduling a meeting doesn’t need to be stressful. Let’s discuss when and how you should reschedule a work meeting, and how to best communicate a change in plans with your colleagues. 

Reasons to reschedule a meeting

There are many reasons you may need to reschedule an important meeting. Some common examples include: unexpected or urgent issues at home, feeling ill or having an ill family member, bad traffic or weather that prevents you from traveling to work, a change of plans that makes the original meeting irrelevant, or accidentally having double-booked yourself. 

While you may not always be as prepared as you’d like, you should never reschedule a meeting at the last minute due to a lack of preparation. Make sure your reason for rescheduling is urgent and compelling. You don’t want to be an employee or manager who constantly reschedules because of your own issues with time management. 

Delightful meetings only

When you do have meetings, make sure they are a productive use of time! Have a collaborative meeting agenda that everyone has access to and can contribute to. Try using Fellow!

Tips for rescheduling a meeting 

1 Notify the attendees ASAP

Start by drafting a note on the instant messaging app you use at work or more formally in an email to the attendees. Ensure you clearly state why the meeting must be rescheduled. Make your message brief and to the point, but still sincere. You don’t need to give specific details if the cause of your rescheduling is a personal matter, but you shouldn’t be vague with the details if it’s a work-related conflict. Take your time drafting the note so it communicates your message and apology appropriately. Aim to give the attendees 24-hour notice if possible. 

2 Write the email yourself

Even if you have an assistant who usually coordinates your calendar, this will be an email you’ll want to draft yourself. In doing so, you’ll let the attendees know that you care about having to reschedule and are considerate of their time. You can also add a personal touch or ask for their input in rescheduling a time to meet. Employees and managers should be courteous of their colleague’s schedules, and writing the email yourself will demonstrate that you have this quality. 

3 Be as descriptive as possible in the email subject line 

State in the subject line of your email that the meeting is canceled. Effective subject lines will also include the meeting date before the phrase “meeting cancellation” or “meeting rescheduling.” If it’s a meeting with someone outside of your company, be sure to include your name as well as the name of your organization. 

4 Suggest another form of communication

Maybe you need to care for a sick family member at home and aren’t able to make that lunch meeting in person, but still have the time to set up a phone or video call. If the meeting can take place in a format that better accommodates your needs at the moment, ask the attendees to move the meeting to a video or phone call. If there isn’t a way to make the meeting work but there are urgent action items to delegate, send an email outlining what you had planned to discuss and note that you intend to follow up soon with further details. Another alternative is to have an asynchronous meeting.

5 Propose an alternative meeting date and time

When rescheduling a meeting, use a scheduling assistant to make sure the time and date you suggest fits in everyone’s calendar. Mention in your email to the attendees that you considered everyone’s availability, but are also open to suggestions in the event that their calendars weren’t up to date. If you leave it up to the attendees to select an alternate time, ensure that your calendar has enough free space to accommodate their suggestions. 

6 Apologize sincerely

A sincere apology can go a long way when you’re rescheduling a meeting. Acknowledge in your email that you made a mistake (when appropriate) or state your reasoning for having to reschedule to smooth out any frustration caused by canceling. Express your regrets and request forgiveness in your attempt to correct the mishap. Acknowledging that you’re imperfect but care about your relationship with the attendees will help build a better rapport. If the rescheduled meeting was high stakes, you can follow up with a phone call the next day as well. In fact, you can even add to your rescheduled Fellow meeting agenda an apology. Apologizing face to face will a go long way in strengthening your relationship.

7 Show appreciation

Express gratitude to your team, manager, clients, or stakeholders that were supposed to be in attendance. After you apologize for any inconvenience your cancellation may have caused, thank them for reading your email and considering your request to accommodate the rescheduled date and time. 

When is it ‘too late’ to reschedule?

If something has come up at work or home but your meeting is planned for 10 minutes from now, you’ll have to make a split-second decision. When making a last-minute call about whether to cancel or not, ask yourself if you can shorten the meeting, offer it in a different format that will accommodate your current needs, or cancel the meeting if the issue is too urgent to move forward. Quickly weigh the pros and cons, and assess the urgency. In short, if you or a loved one is suddenly ill or in danger, it’s never too late to reschedule. If you’re unprepared or have a scheduling conflict, you should be giving the attendees adequate notice before rescheduling. 

Email examples for rescheduling a meeting

1 Canceling at the last minute

Try sending an email like this the next time you have to cancel within a few hours of your meeting:

Hi team,

Might it be possible to reschedule today’s meeting to a time and date later this week? I hate to cancel at the last minute, but I’ll be unable to make it at the time we had originally planned, as [reason] has come up. 

I apologize for any inconvenience this cancellation may cause. Given the urgency of [project name], I am happy to discuss over the phone or via Zoom this afternoon, and will follow up with a list of deliverables via email. 

Thanks very much and talk soon,

[Your name]

2 Canceling because you’re unexpectedly out of office 

You can’t change the weather or avoid sickness, even when it gets in the way of important work commitments. When you have to cancel unexpectedly because you’re away from the office, try sending an email like:

Hello [attendee name], 

Due to unforeseen circumstances [or specific reason], I’m emailing to let you know that our meeting scheduled for [time] on [date] must be rescheduled. I apologize for any inconvenience and hope we can schedule for another date and time. 

I am available to meet again at [time] on [date] if this works for you. If not, please let me know your availability or a time and date that best fits your schedule. 

Thank you very much! I look forward to connecting with you soon about [reason for meeting]. 

Sincerely,

[Your name]

3 Canceling because of a scheduling conflict

We’ve all accidentally scheduled two meetings at once. No matter how organized you are, scheduling conflicts are bound to happen every now and then. Here’s an example of what to email your colleagues when this situation arises: 

Good afternoon,

I’m writing to let you know that I will no longer be able to attend our meeting due to unanticipated conflicts in my schedule. 

Meeting about [project name or reason for meeting] is important to me and I am available to reschedule to [time] on [date] if this works for you. If not, please specify another time and date this week that best fits your schedule. 

Please accept my apologies for the inconvenience. 

Thank you and have a great day,

[Your name]

Reschedule and move forward

We get it. You don’t want to feel like you’re letting anyone down at work. Nobody wants to be a flaky employee, teammate, or manager. For this reason, it can feel awkward to reschedule an important meeting. Remember that life happens and unforeseen circumstances, schedule conflicts, and unexpected days away from the office are bound to take place. How you handle the situation is what matters the most. By learning to effectively communicate the next time you need to reschedule, you’ll be able to leave the guilt behind and move forward with resolving the issue at hand.