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An essential part of being an entrepreneur and a small-business owner is networking and meeting with people. About half of my time is spent getting together with clients, potential clients, partners or people involved in the digital marketing world.

Given that arranging a meeting can be a challenge, asking to cancel or postpone it isn't always a pleasant task, particularly if it has been scheduled for a while.

So, how do you cancel a meeting without offending the other person? Here are some tips:

1. Don't leave it until the last minute. There is nothing more annoying than getting ready to meet someone only to discover that they have abruptly pulled out. Unless it's an emergency or you're being pulled into an important pow-wow with the boss, cancelling with less than two hours notice should be a non-starter.

2. Apologize, and mean it.

3. Provide a good explanation about why a meeting has to be postponed. This provides the other person with a sense of what's happening and why - as opposed to leaving your decision a mystery.

4. Propose a time to reschedule. By taking the initiative, it shows you are still interested in meeting. For example, you could suggest two or three time slots in which you're available. This gives the other person the ability to choose a meeting time that works.

5. When you eventually meet with someone, thank them for their patience and show how much you appreciate the opportunity to get together.

Having to cancel or reschedule meeting is a fact of life. Everyone has to do it, even if it means disrupting someone else's schedule. The key is to make sure there is a good reason, and to be pro-active in suggesting another time. If you are straightforward and polite, cancelling can be a minor inconvenience.

For more thoughts on the right way to cancel a meeting, Mark Suster has an excellent article that includes several different scenarios.

Special to the Globe and Mail

Mark Evans is a principal with ME Consulting , a content and social media strategic and tactical consultancy that creates and delivers 'stories' for companies looking to capture the attention of customers, bloggers, the media, business partners, employees and investors. Mark has worked with three start-ups - Blanketware, b5Media and PlanetEye - so he understands how they operate and what they need to do to be successful. He was a technology reporter for more than a decade with The Globe and Mail, Bloomberg News and the Financial Post. Mark is also one of the co-organizers of the mesh, meshUniversity and meshmarketing conferences.

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