Sometimes missing a critical meeting just can't be helped. Despite the advance planning, you just cannot make it to the meeting. Before you get out the guilt stick and beat yourself up about how stupid that was or how bad it's going to be for your career, take a step back and examine how to overcome your absence.
If you have been following my advice, you did all of the advance preparation for attending the meeting or the show. You know from those preparations about the specific activities and events that you missed. Always keep the agenda or the pre-show planner until after the event occurs.
Recently I had to miss an important event at which I was to give a speech. Fortunately, I was prepared in advance and was able to send my speech via email for distribution at the event.
Learn from this: Prepare in advance. Plan for Murphy's Law. Be prepared to ask someone to present your information or represent you at the event. In the case that you are irreplaceable (we all wish that) contact the lead organizer and let them know you have a conflict. Find out the best way to proceed and explore if there is anything you can do in advance to smooth it over. If extra work is required as a result of your inability to attend, do it. That way you are making a commitment even if you are not there.
Tip: Try not to wait until the last minute to report that you can't make it. The more advance notice you give, the better the relationship will be and they better their chance to find a replacement.
After you have missed the event, spend some time assessing what activities took place. Think it terms of the most critical elements. Did someone take notes? Can you get them? Who has the information on the discussion topics and the outcomes of the conversation? Was a colleague or associate in attendance? If it was your boss, see if you can get some face time to review what transpired. Follow up with the person in charge of the event. Send a handwritten note to them and apologize for your absence. Volunteer to help again at the next event. Remember you are not really doing penance; you are just getting back into the loop.
Sometimes actually missing a meeting can work to your advantage. After the event, you can get in front of important participants by requesting that they bring you up to speed. Apologize for missing the event but don't obsess about it. We all experience events beyond our control.
Establish a rapport with the meeting leaders and discuss a absence protocol. Volunteer to set one up. This places you in a favorable position. You are still willing to do your share and be active in the group's outcome.
Volunteer for other assignments. A word of caution: if the reason for missing the meeting was family or medical issues that are not resolved, wait for this step to your plate is clear. Missing one meeting is OK. Missing more than that can cause problems.
Remember the important issue is to not overreact because you couldn't be there. Regroup and rethink your strategy to get back into the mainstream events and activities.
Think big picture and plot in the grand scheme of things. Yes, you really hated that you missed a critical meeting but in the long run responsiveness and willingness to commit is what people will remember after that single event.
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