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Meeting Cancellation Emails: A Guide to Write One (+3 Examples)

Learn when to cancel a team or one-on-one session, how to cancel, and how to follow up with teammates and stakeholders afterward.

By Brier Cook  •   December 5, 2023  •   7 min read

There are several reasons to schedule a meeting. You might call a meeting to share important company information, make key decisions, solve problems, or ask colleagues for feedback. However, there’s a good chance you’ve never been briefed on when or how to cancel a team session or one-on-one. 

While canceling a meeting at the last minute is never appropriate, there are times when it’s necessary. Let’s take a look at when it’s reasonable to cancel a meeting, some considerations to keep in mind when doing so, and seven steps you can use to cancel your meetings professionally. 

When to cancel a meeting 

There are some key indications that a group isn’t prepared to meet. Here are four reasons it may be appropriate to cancel a meeting:

  • There is no defined purpose: Before every meeting, all attendees should know exactly why the meeting is occurring. Defining the purpose in advance helps attendees understand how to prepare or contribute. Without a purpose, the meeting may be unnecessarily long, unfocused, and unproductive. 
  • Attendees are unprepared: Attendees should be given at least 24 hours to prepare for a meeting. If no one has been assigned a clear role or individuals haven’t prepared their pieces, it’s a sign the meeting should be postponed, rescheduled, or canceled altogether. 
  • There is no meeting agenda: A meeting agenda offers attendees a clear set of topics, objectives, and time frames. As our favorite saying goes: no agenda, no attenda. 
  • There is an emergency or illness: You may need to cancel a meeting if you or a colleague are unwell or you’re dealing with a personal or family emergency. 

No more manual cancellation emails: Automate meeting cancellations with Fellow

Spend less time in tedious admin tasks. Let Fellow, the all-in-one meeting management software, do it for you. Fellow automatically cancels meetings without agendas and sends cancellation emails on your behalf, ensuring you can get more work done.

Best practices to keep in mind when canceling a meeting

  • Provide advance notice: Try to give attendees at least 24 hours’ notice when canceling a meeting. When this isn’t possible, give attendees as much notice as you’re able to. 
  • Communicate clearly: Be clear and concise in your communications when canceling a meeting, notify attendees promptly, and state the reason for the cancellation. 
  • State the reason for canceling: Always state the reason for canceling within your message to attendees. Communicate if you are feeling unwell, are dealing with a personal or family emergency, or have an urgent work matter you must tend to. 
  • Apologize for the inconvenience: Since teammates and stakeholders may have had to turn down other meetings to make room for the one you’re canceling, it’s always a good idea to apologize to attendees in your cancellation note. 
  • Offer alternative options: If you must cancel due to conflicting schedules, an emergency, or another urgent matter, consider offering alternative meeting options. Asynchronous meetings, audio notes, or a recorded session may be good options. 

How to cancel a meeting professionally in 7 steps 

1Evaluate the agenda 

When determining whether to cancel a meeting, begin by evaluating the meeting agenda. The agenda should identify the meeting goals, list questions or areas that must be addressed, indicate clear roles for attendees, and identify who will lead each section. Ask yourself if the topics outlined should be answered in person or via video call, or whether an asynchronous agenda might do. If the meeting is happening in 24 hours or less, the agenda will be a good indication of whether attendees have prepared or not. If a meeting agenda wasn’t sent out in the first place, there’s a good chance the meeting should be canceled or postponed. 

2Decide promptly 

If you’ve decided to cancel, consider first if rescheduling, shortening, or modifying the meeting might make it more productive. Rescheduling might be a good call if someone important can’t make it or you must tend to another work or personal matter. If the group hasn’t adequately prepared, modifying the meeting to delegate action items may be the right move. 

3Prepare the cancellation notice 

If you’re wondering how to cancel a meeting by email, begin by writing a polite cancellation notice. In the notice, state that the meeting has been canceled, provide a brief and honest reason for the cancellation, and offer future plans. For example, you can let teammates and stakeholders know objectives can be met more efficiently through other means. 

The next steps in your cancellation notice may include follow-ups or alternative ways for the group to achieve objectives specified in the meeting agenda. Include an apology for inconveniencing any teammates who turned down other meetings or made room in their calendars to attend this one. 

4Use the original communication channel 

Send the cancellation notice through the same channels used to schedule the original meeting. Doing so will ensure all attendees who were planning on attending see the cancellation and can adjust their calendars accordingly. Consider sending a quick note on the group’s messaging app of choice too. 

5Send the notice promptly 

Aim to send the cancellation notice within an hour of deciding to cancel the meeting. This will give attendees time to rearrange their schedules and determine how to most productively fill that meeting time. Don’t forget to update the meeting invitation with a new date and time if applicable. 

6Offer alternatives

In your cancellation notice, suggest alternative ways to accomplish the meeting objectives. For example, you can ask that certain attendees connect separately to discuss specific topics or ask that teammates continue to keep each other updated on their task progress. 

7Monitor feedback and responses 

Once you send the cancellation notice, you’ll start to receive responses from attendees. Monitor the feedback you get and use it to make decisions about your future team and one-on-one sessions. For example, if multiple attendees reply to your cancellation notice letting you know that they also thought the meeting was unnecessary, it may be a sign that the objectives could be achieved using other mediums.

Cancellation email template 

Here is a simple email template you can send to your teammates the next time you need to cancel a meeting: 

Subject: Canceling Today’s Meeting

Hello,

Due to a scheduling conflict, I will have to cancel [meeting name] scheduled for [date and time].

I understand that this is short notice, and I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. 

Given the circumstances, I believe we should reschedule the meeting to a time when the group can be fully engaged. In the meantime, I will send another email shortly with the next steps about how the group can move forward with [name of project]. 

Thank you and please feel free to reach out if you have any questions at this time. 

Best,

[Your Name]

The importance of meeting templates to avoid cancelling meetings

Crafting a meeting template ahead of time is a game-changer when it comes to avoiding meeting cancellations.

A meeting template provides a structured framework that outlines the meeting’s purpose, topics to be covered, and desired outcomes. With a template in place, everyone knows what to expect, ensuring that conversations stay focused and on track.

It minimizes the chances of cancellations because it gives participants confidence in the meeting’s purpose and ensures that their time will be well spent.

In Fellow, you can assign specific sections of the template to different attendees – ensuring they will contribute to the meeting agenda before the meeting begins. No more meeting cancellations because nobody contributed to the agenda!

Try one of Fellow’s 500+ Meeting Templates or the Staff meeting template below to get started with better, more efficient meetings:

Alternatives to canceling a meeting

  • Practice better meeting etiquette: Practice great meeting etiquette by sending the meeting agenda at least 24 hours before each session, sending a reminder to attendees to contribute to the agenda, and inviting all necessary teammates and stakeholders. Use Fellow’s built-in Meeting Guidelines to shape your team’s meeting habits and integrate meeting best practices into each session. 
  • Shorten meetings: Not every meeting needs to be an hour or more. Meetings on single topics rarely need to last more than 10 minutes, so concentrate your efforts on shorter, controlled periods. 
  • Only involve the necessary individuals: Meetings with too many people are often unfocused and unproductive. Only invite necessary individuals to whom you can assign clear roles. As a best practice, aim to keep most meetings at eight or fewer attendees. 
  • Host asynchronous meetings: An asynchronous meeting is one that does not take place in real time. If you cancel a meeting but still need to discuss the topic with attendees, call an asynchronous meeting where everyone can communicate on their own schedules, at their own pace. 
  • Use video recordings: Use tools like Loom to record shareable videos that capture your camera, microphone, and desktop simultaneously. Integrate Loom with Fellow to enhance your meeting notes with embedded video content to make real-time and asynchronous meetings more engaging. 
  • Use audio and voice notes: Leverage voice notes to offer quick status updates or share ideas with teammates. Voice notes are great for those who want to convey the meaning of their message through their tone of voice. 

Avoid meeting cancellations by sending a meeting agenda with Fellow

Use Fellow – the all-in-one AI meeting transcription and management software – to send a meeting agenda in advance and communicate the purpose of the meeting to all attendees. By sending a meeting agenda with Fellow, you provide time for attendees to prepare and gather any necessary information. This way, you can avoid the frustration of having to cancel or reschedule.

As an alternative to cancelling the meeting because you can’t attend, you can send the Fellow AI Meeting Copilot to record and transcribe the meeting for you, so you can catch up on the content later!

Say goodbye to unnecessary cancellations and hello to efficient meeting management with Fellow.

Parting advice

Canceling a meeting isn’t ideal, but it’s better than hosting a meeting where attendees are unprepared. The next time you need to cancel a group session or one-on-one meeting, check out our seven steps and meeting cancellation template to ensure you’re doing so professionally. Better yet, now that you know how to cancel a meeting professionally, use an all-in-one meeting tool like Fellow to build great meeting habits before, during, and after each session.

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