I am always intrigued by the emergence of new business customs and practices. The e-calendar invitation is the latest that has been on my mind.
Once seen almost exclusively within corporate intranets, the use of an electronic calendar invitation has exploded as the go-to method to set up a meeting or conference call. The tool is useful principally as a time-saver, but it does not represent a time-saving silver bullet.
For the business people who manage their own calendars, they can attest that on occasion it takes almost as much time to organize a 30 minute call with multiple persons as it does to have the call itself. Engaging the stream of emails polling a group about their schedule availability can become burdensome for the organizer. Those that think they can circumvent the process by presumptively sending an invitation without checking calendars first are rolling the dice. Sometimes it works, but often it just triggers the customary multi-email and phone call process to set up a meeting.
Since most of us are using the tool, I thought I would share some tips on how to increase business efficiency by creating more purposeful calendar invitations.
1. Make the invitation relevant – When crafting the title of the meeting invitation, make sure to read it as if you were the recipient. A title “Meet with Bill” doesn’t help Bill when he receives it. Including your name or company name with the same information for the other party is mandatory to make the calendar invite useful to all participants.
2. Give it a purpose – Just putting a meeting on the calendar may not accomplish the intended purpose. I’ve seen people respond with questions about “why are we meeting?” and “What are we going to talk about?”. Providing a meeting purpose in the description area if the minimum information required. Adding an agenda if you have one raise the bar in utility for all parties.
3. Watch your changes – If you send invitations as placeholders and later use the same invitation to add recipients, documents, agendas, or other information, you invite confusion without some clarification. I’ve seen 3-4 invitations come into my inbox for the same meeting, each one including an incremental change. If all invitations are accepted, you’ll see a confusing mess on that hour of your calendar and really won’t know which invite is the one to keep. Help your meetings partners out by including clarifications if you must continue to resend invitations.
4. Realize that invitations resemble calendar cockroaches – At least in the world of Gmail, a meeting cancellation may not populate in the actual calendar. I’ve found that I must read the incoming email with the cancellation message and then go to my calendar to manually delete the meeting. If you’re in a hurry or reading email on your smartphone in the airport, you may find yourself sitting on a conference line listening to …. nothing. If anyone knows of a fix for this issue within Gmail, be sure to let me know.
With a little attention to detail, calendar invitations can be used more effectively and can fulfill their potential as time – savers. Investing time to build proficiency in this area might seem simple, but can clearly be viewed over time as gesture of respect towards your colleagues.