A very smart person who reads my tips wrote recently to ask if a difference exists between “despite” and “in spite of.” I figured if this V.S.P. was wondering, others might be as well.
The simple answer is that there is no difference. You can say, “We held the meeting despite six people being away on a business trip,” or “We held the meeting in spite of six people being away on a business trip.”
But next time, plan your meeting for a time when everyone can attend.