This article was updated on July 23, 2015.
Time. It’s a resource no one can make more of, which makes time one of the most valuable resources anyone has. So when you request or schedule time on someone else’s calendar, you must do it with extreme care if you want to be recognized as a competent admin. If you don’t, it’s one of the fastest ways to lose credibility with executives and irritate people beyond belief.
To be a value-added admin, there’s one important thing you can do when it comes to scheduling meetings: create descriptive and complete electronic meeting invitations.
I receive dozens of Outlook meeting invites on behalf of the executive clients I support. It’s rare that the subject line is adequate in describing what the meeting is about. And it usually isn’t any clearer when I open it looking for additional clues. Never assume that because you’re familiar with the meeting details that all executives, attendees, and their assistants are, too. (Have you ever been the last to know?)
Here are a few simple meeting invitation strategies you can implement to ensure you aren’t wasting valuable time for everyone on the invite list.
1. Create clear, descriptive subject lines.
For meetings with attendees from outside your office, include:
- Your company name
- The type of meeting (e.g. board meeting, planning meeting, project meeting)
- Team name (e.g marketing, Business development, sales)
- With external company or vendor name (if applicable)
- Time and time zone
- Meeting location
A sample meeting invite subject line for a meeting with external attendees may look like this:
- All Things Admin: Marketing Meeting with ABC Ad Agency – 3 p.m. CST – Executive Board Room
- All Things Admin: Board Dinner – 6 p.m. CST – Maggiano’s
- All Things Admin: Board Audit Committee Meeting – 2 p.m. CST – Teleconference
For meetings with only attendees from within your company:
- Team name (e.g. marketing, business development, sales)
- Type of meeting (e.g. operations review meeting, planning meeting, project meeting)
- Person(s) or team(s) included
- Time and time zone
- Meeting location
A sample meeting invite subject line for a meeting with only internal attendees may look like this:
- Weekly One-on-One: Manager Name and Julie Perrine – 1 p.m. CST – Manager’s Office
- Monthly Operations Review with Management Team & Board Chairman – 9 a.m. EST – Executive Conference Room
- Business Development “ABC Project” Weekly Status Meeting – 11 a.m. CST – Sales Conference Room
You might be asking, “What’s wrong with putting this information in the message section of the meeting invite?” The answer: nothing. It can certainly be included there, too. However, the goal of a descriptive subject line is for the recipient to not have to open the invite to understand what the meeting is about.
Including the time zones is helpful if the people you invite want to verify that their calendar program has the meeting at the right time. They can confirm the data on sight without having to dig through files, papers, or old e-mails. It’s also very nice when your executive is traveling outside of his or her normal time zone and needs to verify exactly for what time and time zone the meeting is scheduled.
2. Use the location field for specific meeting addresses or conference bridge dial in and passcode information.
I know most electronic calendar programs have a location field, but I recommend putting the location in the subject line so it’s bolded with the rest of the information. If there’s more specific information, such as a physical address or conference bridge line number and passcode, include that in the location field instead. You want as much of the non-confidential and non-proprietary information about the meeting logistics and purpose to be plainly visible. If you can fit the appropriate details in the subject line, then leave the location blank.
3. Remember the “message” section!
The message section of a meeting invitation is often ignored completely. This is the perfect place for all other details related to the meeting.
At the very least, make sure you include the dial-in number and passcode for conference calls. If one attendee is supposed to call the other attendee, also note that so everyone knows.
If possible, include a brief agenda or summary of the key points to be addressed in the meeting. This allows attendees to be better prepared for the meeting. If there are documents that you will be distributing closer to the meeting date, note that, too. Get in the habit of asking the meeting organizer for this information as soon as they ask you to setup a meeting so you can include it with the very first invite that gets sent.
I often put my name or initials and a date at the bottom of the message, too. If I have to update the meeting invite at all, then I put a row of equal signs (=) across the top of the original message and add my updated comments at the very top so it’s the first thing the reader sees when they open the updated invitation.
3/10/2011 – Please note: We have updated the meeting location for this meeting. Thanks! jlp
The agenda for this meeting is as follows…[text from original email]
If you have a recurring meeting and you’re changing or canceling only one in a series, note that in the cancellation message so attendees know exactly what is being changed, updated, or cancelled.
Become a Power Meeting Scheduler
If you don’t know how to send updates or cancellations in your email calendar program, team up with another person and do some practice invitations.
- Send a meeting invitation to your coworker.
- Open the original meeting invitation and make an update to it, such as changing the date or time. Put a note in the message section stating what the change is. Click on send update. Then view it on their screen to see how it looks when it arrives in their inbox.
- Open the meeting invitation again, and delete it. Add a note about why it’s being deleted, and send the cancellation. View it on the other person’s screen to see what this looks like also.
Going through this simple exercise a couple of times will help you become more comfortable with your calendar program, and help you master the calendar management skill!
Remember:Value Added Service Means Saving Time and Making Others More Productive
Why is such a seemingly simple task of scheduling a meeting so important? Any time a follow-up phone call or email is required to verify the meeting details, it takes up your valuable time and theirs. If three people call you and it takes five minutes per phone call, that’s a combined total of 15 minutes of wasted time. Multiply that times five meetings per week, that’s a combined total of 1.25 hours of lost productivity! By sending a meeting invite with complete details, you can eliminate a lot of frustration and wasted time for everyone you interact with.
Additionally, meeting attendees who arrive at a meeting prepared makes the meeting more productive which increases the productivity of the entire team. This is where you’ve just added significant value to the entire process by creating a meeting invitation that was complete from the start.
If the meetings you coordinate don’t include attendees from outlying areas or external companies, that doesn’t mean they always won’t. Start using these strategies now so you already have “value added” meeting planning practices in use if and when that changes.
© 2015 Julie Perrine International, LLC
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Julie Perrine, CAP-OM, is the founder and CEO of All Things Admin, providing training, mentoring and resources for administrative professionals worldwide. Julie applies her administrative expertise and passion for lifelong learning to serving as an enthusiastic mentor, speaker and author who educates admins around the world on how to be more effective every day. Learn more about Julie’s new book — The Innovative Admin: Unleash the Power of Innovation in Your Administrative Career — and request your free copy of our special report “From Reactive to Proactive: Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com.