A consultant friend recommended me to one of his colleagues who was searching for podcast guests, urging him to interview me.
The colleague and I scheduled a 25-minute, get-to-know you meeting, standard with podcast hosts to see if you are good fit.
The meeting was scheduled for Halloween morning.
I sent a confirmation email the day before the meeting, my standard m.o. for upcoming meetings.
The podcast host confirmed our meeting. But early the next day he emailed saying he forgot he was supposed to volunteer in his child’s classroom for Halloween festivities. Could we please reschedule?
We rescheduled for mid-November. He responded to my confirmation email for that meeting with a rescheduled appointment for early December, saying that day would work better.
In early December, he rescheduled for a week later. The following week he said he was immersed in year-end client work. Could we postpone until January?
I said sure.
Our mid-January meeting got rescheduled to a Friday in late January because he had a family emergency.
I was tired of bearing the onus of our schedule and did not send a confirmation email. When I didn’t hear from him, I thought the sixth time would be the charm.
I got on Zoom at the appointed time and waited.
Five minutes into our meeting time, I emailed him to ask if we were still on.
Ten minutes into the meeting, I posted on LinkedIn asking my connections how long they wait when someone doesn’t show for a Zoom meeting.
At 15 minutes, I left.
The following Monday the podcaster emailed an apology, saying he had “a hot fire to put out” for a client and had sent a message about the change that unfortunately did not reach me.
Could we reschedule for next week?
Your Personal Brand Reflects Experiences with You
When I read that question, the voice in my head screamed NO!
I don’t want to seem unsympathetic. Each reason the podcast host had to reschedule was legit on its own.
But the pattern signaled trouble. And unlike the early reschedule requests, I no longer trusted a future meeting would happen.
We had never met and yet he lost my trust.
How did that happen?
Your personal brand is like any other brand.
As I define it my book Teenage Wastebrand: How Your Brand Can Stop Struggling and Start Scaling,
“a brand is the expectation of what you will get when you interact with an entity based on prior experiences with, and impressions of, that entity.”
Other than my consultant friend’s initial endorsement, the only experiences I had with this podcaster were his five reschedule requests and one meeting no-show.
What Repeated Canceling Does to Your Personal Brand
Life happens. Everyone needs to cancel a meeting at some point. Most times the rescheduled meeting happens without a hitch.
When you cancel repeatedly, however, you convey unintended messages.
- say the meeting is not a priority for you;
- suggest maybe you didn’t want to meet in the first place;
- indicate you don’t manage your time well;
- disrespect the other party’s time.
None of those messages makes a positive impression.
Multiple cancellations brand you as unreliable. You lose trust if you are unreliable, as I have in the other party.
Trust underlies every healthy relationship and differentiates brands. In my research, respondents often tell me they prefer working with a particular brand because they can count on employees calling them back and answering their emails. It sounds basic, but trust is key.
Once you have lost someone’s trust, it is hard to win it back.
How to Cancel and Reschedule In a Way That Boosts Your Brand Instead of Hurting It
Remember: your personal brand is the accumulation of experiences people have with you. Canceling and rescheduling are attention-grabbing experiences. How you handle them will color meeting attendees’ image of you.
Here’s how to handle them well:
Cancel as soon as you know you can’t make the meeting, at least a day in advance if possible. Giving attendees at least 24 hours’ notice helps everyone redeploy their time productively.
Apologize. Your cancellation or rescheduling makes more work for attendees, especially if someone else is organizing the meeting. Express regret for disrupting the original schedule and acknowledge the burden the disruption causes.
Give a reason. Be honest, transparent, and specific. If your reason is too personal to share, let them know a private matter arose. “Something came up” doesn’t cut it. Your ability to be clear and have a bona fide reason is key to retaining attendees’ trust.
Offer dates and times for rescheduling, if appropriate. Or let them know you will do so at your first opportunity. As the one causing the disruption, taking the lead to reschedule minimizes the work others must do to accommodate you.
If you won’t be able to attend any time, say so respectfully.
Ensure meeting attendees receive your cancellation message. I never got the podcaster’s email and waited on Zoom unnecessarily. You don’t want that to happen to your meeting attendees. Follow up before the meeting time if you don’t hear from them.
Last-minute cancellations merit a phone call or multiple attempts to reach attendees to ensure you don’t appear to have blown off the meeting. It’s disrespectful to just not show up and conjures ill will.
Thank people for their understanding. You imposed, they obliged. Express your gratitude.
Show up for the rescheduled meeting. This is the moment you seal the deal on people’s trust in you. Your participation restores faith in you and your value to the meeting.
If you must cancel a second time, either bow out so the work can continue without you or take the lead to reschedule the meeting yourself for a time you know you can attend. All your candor and gratitude mean nothing if you continue to inconvenience people.
How I Handled the Sixth Reschedule Request
Despite my frustration and annoyance, I wanted to give the podcaster the benefit of the doubt. Burning this bridge would help neither of us. I did not want to taint the podcaster’s view of my consultant friend who had introduced us.
I replied to his apology email:
“You are correct, I did not receive your email about the change. Sorry to hear about the hot fire.
“Next week does not work for me. I have much travel in February and am booked up for the next few weeks.
“More than that, I think the meeting gods have it out for us. Our first meeting was scheduled for October 31. This will be the sixth reschedule by my count. I’m thinking we should stop fighting the universe.
“Perhaps after a chunk of time passes, conditions will be more favorable.”
He did not respond. I’m okay with that.
As my 26-year-old son AJ said to me, any motivated person can find 25 minutes to meet.
Have you ever experienced a serial meeting canceler? I’d love to hear your story.
À la Mode
Thanks to the 10 people who responded to my Inbox Detox article question about reading emails in light or dark mode. Five said light mode, three said dark mode, and one said both. Two decided to try dark mode based on my article. Let us know how that goes!
Just for Fun
As we gear up for this year’s Superbowl ads, check out The 20 best Superbowl commercials of all time. Let me know if you agree with their assessment.
Revisit the Monty Python skit that branded junk email as spam. (3 minutes, 19 seconds)