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Excusing yourself from a business meeting early should be avoided whenever possible, but sometimes an early exit is necessary. When you leave a meeting early, the goal is to be as quiet as possible and limit distractions. Quietly gather your handouts, office supplies and laptop and wait until you get outside the meeting room to get your keys or check your cell phone. A smooth and seamless exit helps the speaker stay focused so he doesn't lose his train of thought.
Notify the Meeting Leader
Amy Castro, president of Innovative Communications and Training Solutions, notes on her website that business meeting attendees should let the meeting leader know before the session begins that they must leave early. When possible, drop the meeting leader an email the day before the conference to let her know about your early departure. If advance notice isn't possible, arrive early for the meeting and let her know the approximate time you'll be leaving. Offer an apology, tell her you're looking forward to the meeting and express disappointment that you can't stay for the whole meeting.
Disclose Reasons for Your Exit
Meeting attendees should only leave early if it's absolutely necessary. For example, maybe a family member has a conflicting engagement, your boss double-booked you for the day, you have an important sales call that was scheduled before the meeting was scheduled, you have jury duty, or you have a doctor's appointment that can't be rescheduled. By providing a few brief details you reassure the presenter that it's nothing personal -- it's just a scheduling conflict. Let your boss know you will get meeting details you missed from one of your colleagues.
Plan Your Exit Time
Making your exit during a transitional period is easier for you as well as others involved in the meeting. If there are bathroom breaks between sessions, or there's a lunch break, plan your exit during one of those times. The break might give you enough time to briefly thank the presenter and politely excuse yourself before the next session begins. A strategic exit also gives you time to gather your belongings so you don't feel rushed or accidentally leave something important behind.
Sit Near the Door
Arrive early for the meeting so you can find a seat that accommodates your early departure. Castro recommends that you sit near the door so your exit will be swift and less conspicuous. When it's time to go, slip out of your seat quietly, avoid making eye contact with other meeting attendees or the presenter, and don't say a word. If you have a jacket, wait until you get outside the conference room to put it on. The least amount of distraction, the better.
As curriculum developer and educator, Kristine Tucker has enjoyed the plethora of English assignments she's read (and graded!) over the years. Her experiences as vice-president of an energy consulting firm have given her the opportunity to explore business writing and HR. Tucker has a BA and holds Ohio teaching credentials.
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