This is life, and sometimes, things happen that can prevent you from meeting certain obligations. For whatever reason, it can happen that you may need to cancel a meeting or postpone a meeting until a later date. When you do this at the last minute, you’ll need a good excuse as to why you want to cancel a meeting. These excuses to cancel a meeting must be realistic, and they shouldn’t be trivial.
They should be burning issues or unforeseen circumstances that need to be handled immediately. A poor excuse, such as not being in the mood, oversleeping, and going for a hair appointment, will reflect negatively on you; it could even put your job at risk.
Here are 10+ of the best excuses to cancel a meeting at the last minute:
Excuses to cancel a meeting that is a face-to-face
01Your child is sick at school
Let’s say, for example, your son or daughter is at school and feels unwell, but he/she is not unwell enough to warrant a visit to the hospital. In this case, it is customary for the school to contact the parents to make arrangements to pick up the children from school.
When this happens, you’ll either have to pick him/her up yourself, or you’ll need to ask someone to do it. If you have to pick up your child from school, you will have to drop everything and essentially clear your schedule to do so. The only other option would be to get a baby sitter to pick up your child in your place.
These things can actually happen to anyone, and no good-minded boss will tell you to abandon your child or leave him/her at school feeling unwell. The other attendees should also be understanding once informed of your need to leave unexpectedly.
E.g. “Hi Tim, I know we have a meeting at 2 p.m., but my son’s school called saying that he’s been having stomach problems all day. I have to go get him right now, so can we cancel or move the meeting to another time?
My older daughter doesn’t get home until 4 p.m., so I won’t be able to find anyone else to babysit on such short notice.”
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It is not wise to travel under certain conditions that could put you or your vehicle at risk of damage. Now, this doesn’t mean that you should cancel your meeting due to a little rain.
The conditions must be extreme enough to warrant staying at home, like a severe thunderstorm with high winds or a snowstorm.
If the meeting was scheduled for a specific day, and your area has received a weather alert for that day, then you are under no obligation to attend the meeting. You can use the weather alert to get out of your meeting, especially if nothing is expected to change on that day.
Your boss will not expect you to risk your safety just to attend a meeting. Perhaps, he/she won’t be able to attend the meeting also.
E.g. “Good afternoon Marjorie, I just heard on the news that we’re due for a nasty storm, and all of the residents are advised to stay at home. I hope that we can reschedule our meeting for a more suitable day.”
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If you need to travel for work, then you’re probably used to delayed and canceled flights interfering with your schedule.
Flights can be delayed for numerous reasons, such as adverse weather, restrictions from air traffic controllers, bird strikes, other delayed flights, or awaiting cargo. Finally, the list can go on for the reasons behind a delayed flight.
When this happens, you don’t have any control of your situation. Unless you can rent a car to make it to your meeting on time, you’ll have to stay at home. This is a good excuse to use when the company is aware of your travel obligations.
The following example isn’t an outlandish claim, and if necessary, it can easily be proven.
E.g. “Good morning Mr. Mitchell, I’m at the airport now, and I’m being told that my 6 a.m. flight has been delayed until 2 p.m. So, I’ll have to cancel our meeting that was set for 9 a.m.”
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Unfortunately, living in a congested city means that you’ll have to leave much earlier from your office or home to get to the destination of your meeting. Sometimes, even if you do leave on time, you can still end up turning up late.
A traffic jam is usually considered a bad excuse to be late, but if you are at a standstill, in bumper to bumper traffic, it would be unreasonable to ask someone to wait for until you arrive.
Sometimes, you can spend hours in traffic. In this case, it is more reasonable to cancel a meeting than to ask someone to wait for you.
A cancellation will work if you haven’t left your home already. It can also work if there has been some sort of accident that is blocking the roadway.
You may also cancel a meeting if you’re stuck in traffic, and you still have too long of a way to go before reaching your final destination.
Heavy traffic is a good excuse to use when you live in a big city, and this is because it’s where things like heavy traffic are very common.
For this reason, your boss or client will likely believe you and accept your request to cancel or reschedule a meeting.
E.g. “Hey Ron, you wouldn’t believe the traffic today! I’ve barely moved in nearly an hour. If you can wait, it would be best for us to call it a day. We can figure out how to work this meeting into our schedule for another time.”
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If you have a face-to-face meeting, you don’t want to be sneezing or coughing uncontrollably in the workplace. This would definitely disturb the flow of your meeting. It’s always a better idea to stay home when you’re sick instead of potentially infecting others.
Your sickness may also be gastrointestinal. Perhaps, you ate some bad clams or something else that isn’t sitting right in your stomach. If you have unexplained or excruciating stomach pains, you should see a doctor.
If you have to rush to the bathroom or hunch over because of your stomach pain, then you should also see a doctor. If these are your symptoms, it’s sure that you won’t be able to pay attention to what is happening at the office, and you definitely shouldn’t be present at work.
When this happens suddenly, you may not have gone to the doctor, or maybe, you’re on your way to the doctor’s office in the morning. In any case, if you’re very sick, you should choose to stay home as long as it’s possible.
This is one of the most common excuses to cancel a meeting because it is legitimate. People get sick, and they shouldn’t infect others in the workplace.
E.g. “Unfortunately, I will have to cancel our meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. today. I seem to have caught my toddler’s flu, and now, I’m too weak to come into work to make the pitch.”
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06Scheduling error (blame assistant/intern)
If you have a very busy schedule, and you have an intern or assistant to keep track of it all, it isn’t unusual for there to be some scheduling errors from time to time. Errors can happen, especially when your intern or assistant is new.
When an error happens, you’ll be forced to reschedule, cancel, or rearrange certain things in your schedule to make up for the error. This is a valid excuse to cancel a meeting with a client or customer.
The error wasn’t your own, and there isn’t much that you can do about it once the meeting time has passed.
For instance, if you are double-booked or if the meeting is scheduled for the wrong time, it’ll be harder to put yourself in a position to attend the meeting that you weren’t aware of.
E.g. “Hi Martin, I glanced at my schedule this morning, and I realized that my new assistant scheduled me to be in two meetings at 2 p.m. My apologies for this error, but I’ll have to cancel my meeting with you and reschedule it for a later date.”
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Excuses to cancel a meeting via audio/video call
Technology is usually reliable, but it doesn’t mean that it won’t fail us from time to time. Technical difficulties can include a poor internet connection, a damaged laptop, low sound quality for a microphone, or a faulty webcam.
This can happen to anyone, no matter how high-tech or expensive your device may be. Sometimes, some simple troubleshooting with a customer service representative can’t fix the issue in time for your meeting.
In that case, once you explain the situation to the other attendees, they are likely to understand. They may choose to tolerate the situation until the issue is rectified. If not, the meeting will have to be canceled until the matter is resolved.
E.g. “Hello everyone, I’m having some issues connecting to my Internet, so I won’t be able to host the Zoom meeting at 3 p.m. if nothing changes.”
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Power outages are different from technical difficulties because there is literally nothing that you can do about it. All you can do is wait until the electric company addresses the issue for you.
When this happens, your home will be in darkness meaning that you won’t be able to have your meeting. Not to mention, your internet connection is likely to be affected, and your devices may lose power/charge mid-meeting.
It would be a bad idea to have a video call meeting in the dark. You shouldn’t have an audio meeting if you have no power to keep your phone or computer connected. You can imagine that your laptop or tablet might die mid-conversation.
With a power outage, any logical person can understand that an audio/video meeting is ineffective and needs to be canceled.
E.g. “My entire neighborhood is in darkness right now, and I’m hearing reports that it’s going to be like this for the entire city, for a few hours or more. Let’s cancel the meeting tonight, and we can wait until the power is back up before scheduling it anew.”
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09Death in family
A sudden death in the family is especially hard to handle because you don’t get the chance to say goodbye. It will be hard to focus on anything if you are very overcome with grief, and a meeting would definitely be too hard to handle at the same time.
This is a good excuse to use when you have a boss or a client who is compassionate. In most cases, the other person will understand that you need space and time to heal before getting back to business. The following is how you can inform the client or your boss about the unfortunate incident:
E.g. “It is with a heavy heart that I need cancel the meeting that we have scheduled for this afternoon. Earlier this morning, I learned that my grandmother passed away in the hospital, and I have been in mourning ever since. Please keep my family in your thoughts at this time. Thanks.”
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10A last-minute request from a client
Sometimes, clients don’t understand that you have other obligations. Even though, you want to do the best possible job for your client, you’ll have to deal with your other obligations.
Many clients are demanding, and at other times, they forget things that may mean more work for you at a later date. For example, some clients try to add details to a meeting or task at the last minute.
If you have an upcoming meeting, and you have received a last-minute request, your boss will likely prefer that you attend to the needs of the client to keep him/her happy.
E.g. “I’ll have to cancel our meeting at 4 p.m. today. I just got a call from Mrs. Whitby, and she needs someone to [insert request]. She asked for me by name to take care of it.”
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11Other meeting is running late
Having back-to-back meetings is a drag. Who wants to spend a whole day in and out of meetings?
Well, this does happen. In fact, these meetings may go over the allotted time, and they can run into the time that’s been set aside for your next scheduled meeting.
When this happens, you can’t just hang up on the person, especially because they are probably hoping to finish the discussion.
This made the list of excuses to cancel a meeting because this is something that happens not only for face-to-face meetings, but it can also happen for video and audio conference calls.
In a case like this, you will have to cancel and text your boss/client/colleague to let him/her know what is happening. Here’s a sample text:
E.g. “Good evening Mr. Richards, I know that we have a meeting scheduled in a few minutes, but this meeting with my client is taking much longer than expected. Let’s cancel the meeting for now, and I’ll send the most importance details to you via email.”
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These are pretty solid excuses to cancel a meeting, and they will generally work if they are used appropriately.
The excuses to cancel a meeting that you use should be excuses that cannot backfire or blow up in your face. That means, you shouldn’t lie or make up an excuse that isn’t realistic. Y
ou should not say that you are sick and end up being seen by a coworker with your partner on a lunch date. It’s sure that it will do way more harm than good, and a lie could definitely damage your reputation at work.