The Meeting Should have Been an Email

Maclean Tamanda Mbepula
5 min readSep 11, 2019

So, someone has something to talk to you about and asked to meet with you. It is not a friend per se or potential client and therefore its purpose is not exactly obvious to you. If you are anything like me and do not get enough details, this kind of statement’s vagueness could really irk you.

Over the past eleven years of entrepreneurship, I have learned that there are quite a number of meetings that never ever needed to exist in the first place. Now, we are not talking about the element of time-management alone. We are now talking about the sheer annoyingness of it all. Hello, and welcome to an article about one of my pet-peeves: meetings that should have been an email, text message or call.

In honesty, it is partially my fault: I have irritating people-pleasing tendencies. I find it hard to sometimes to be more assertive about some time demands. I have gotten a bit better of late, in fact, I did the ultimate and told my own mother that if it’s not an emergency I am not able to do weekday errands for her. I will happily do it over the weekend. She probably did not like that much but I feel she has taken that on board and in my opinion that improves the overall quality of our relationship.

So when it comes to meetings, I now try to be as assertive. Now, as a personal rule, there are family/friendships and working relationships that I am cultivating where I relax this a bit. Why? Because of the dynamics involved and hey, we are all allowed to have our own personal rules but never at the expense of another’s resources. However, I have clients that I have never ever met that are based in Malawi and abroad. We have conducted whole projects unto completion conversing via Skype, email, text, calls and even Whatsapp. Through such experiences, I know completely that physical meetings are 100% unnecessary. In this day and age, this works like magic for me: face to face is good (if need be), especially for establishing credibility and rapport but once you already have that it is not the most efficient. Since I don’t yet own a car, and public transport is the very bane of my existence, committing to a physical meeting is saying: yes, on top of the meeting time, I’ll commit anywhere between 30 minutes to 2 hours for commuting to and fro only to this non-client/non-sales encounter.

So, the older I get the more lazy… scratch that “ desiring of efficiency” I become. The overall goal is to ensure a realistic level of efficacy and satisfaction in business. So, some of the things that I will recommend may be obvious to entrepreneurs coming from a formal background but those of us that are learning these things by ourselves on the battlefield may find some of the following tips useful.

Those of us wanting to set meetings could seriously benefit from always running potential meetings through this one question. Is it a must that this face to face meeting should happen? Can digital communication suffice? Sometimes sharing a vision and exciting ideas are best-done face to face, I understand that and totally support it. However, on other occasions, the question is simply: do we have to meet face to face to hire someone or vet a product in the early stages, for example? In some cases, the honest answer is “no”. So, ask yourself that question: is it better if this is an email instead? I think an email is better because you can track the conversation much better and in theory is more formal than Whatsapp or what-have-you. However, we have so many more options: pick what works for whatever interaction you need to have.

2. Set An Agenda:

Other entrepreneurs coming from an informal background find this an odd question probably because of the word “agenda” but whatever diction is used, the goal is to create the feeling of “intentionality”. Why is this super important for everyone involved?

The agenda creates “purpose” or at the very least the perception of purpose. Now, having discovered the purpose, it could still be early enough for this conversation to be had digitally. On top of that, an agenda and enough background information for all parties mean everyone can come to attend fully prepared. This is in everyone’s best interest. It is a waste of your time or someone else’s time if people do not come prepared. Preparation ensures that you don’t have to have another one right after everyone has all the information they need to be armed with.

3. Set a Specific Time and Venue:

For some reason, I have found that some of us entrepreneurs coming from informal backgrounds have a pungency to set meeting dates, maybe even venues but waffle a bit when it comes to the time until possibly the same day of the meeting. The theory I think is that the person is aiming for flexibility. This, to be honest, is low-key “rude” towards the person you are asking to meet you. Personally, I find this insufferably irritating beyond belief. As stated: pet peeve. Not setting a specific time creates several problems: the person who wants to commit to attending the said meeting cannot concretely plan their day because now they are waiting on you, in a way. Therefore, when you eventually call for that meeting you talked of (possibly on the same day you expect it), you are now basically inconveniencing said person with your time-demands because of the perception that you “already agreed” to have that meeting on that day. It is just bad form. Let’s get in the simple habit of setting that date, venue and time of the meeting if we must have one.

Now, if you manage to decide a meeting remains digital, apart from the time-savings you make, and the removed hassle of a commute, you also enjoy other advantages as the person who sets the meeting. One surprise advantage the person setting the meeting can get if they decide it remains a digital conversation is the clarity of thought writing their details provides. Clarity or refinement of the train of thought is golden. It is even possible that at this point the person may see where improvements can be made. Conversely, this may be what helps the individual see that in fact, they really do have a great idea on their hands and that face to face meeting is now necessary.

What do you think? When it comes to meetings, everyone has an opinion. What’s yours?

Want to discover more about Maclean Mbepula? Find her on Linkedin or here on Medium. She’s written 3 books (one in entrepreneurship from a grassroots perspective (“Challenge Accepted) and 2 poetry books which are available for purchase on Amazon or you can sign up and get the kindle versions 100% FREE.

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Maclean Tamanda Mbepula

Ghostwriter. Author. Entrepreneur. Web Designer. Artist/ Poet. Stand-Up Comedian. Founder of Afrineur, Creative Africa Space & Shekinah Invest. ENFP. :)