Time. It’s a resource no one can make more of, so that makes TIME one of the most valuable resources anyone has. So when you start requesting or scheduling time on someone else’s calendar, you must master the skill and do it with extreme care if you want to be recognized as a competent administrative professional. If you don’t, it’s one of the fastest ways to lose credibility with executives and completely irritate people beyond belief.
I want to share a simple way you can become a value-added admin 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 at first glance, let alone once I open it looking for additional clues. Never assume that because you are familiar with all of the meeting details that all executives, meeting attendees, and their assistants are as well. (Have you ever been the last to know?)
Here are a few simple strategies you can implement the next time you click NEW APPOINTMENT on your calendar invite program to ensure you aren’t wasting valuable time for everyone on the invite list – yourself included!
1. Create clear, descriptive subject lines.
I recommend including at much of this information as possible in the subject line:
For meetings with attendees from OUTSIDE your company –
- Your Company Name
- Type of Meeting (e.g. Board Mtg, Planning Mtg, Project Mtg.)
- Team Name (e.g Marketing, Biz Dev, Sales)
- With External Company or Vendor Name (if applicable)
- Time AND Time Zone
- Meeting Location
So a sample meeting invite subject line for a meeting with external attendees may look like this:
- All Things Admin: Marketing Mtg with ABC Ad Agency – 3 PM CST – Exec Board Room
- All Things Admin: Board Dinner – 6 PM CST – Maggiano’s
- All Things Admin: Board Audit Committee Mtg – 2 PM CST – Via Teleconference
For meetings with ONLY attendees from INSIDE your company –
- Team Name (e.g Marketing, Biz Dev, Sales)
- Type of Meeting (e.g. Operations Review Mtg, Planning Mtg, Project Mtg.)
- Person(s) or Team(s) Included
- Time AND Time Zone
- Meeting Location
So a sample meeting invite subject line for a meeting with internal attendees only may look like this:
- Weekly One on One: Manager Name and Julie Perrine – 1 PM Central – Manager’s Office
- Monthly Operations Review with Management Team & Board Chairman – 9 AM Eastern – Executive Conference Room
- Biz Development “ABC Project” Weekly Status Mtg – 11 AM Central – Sales Conf. Room
You may ask, “But 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 receiver to not have to open the invite all the way up every time they scan their calendar and just want to know what the meeting is about, when it is, and where it’s at.
Including the time zones is super helpful if the person you invited wants to verify that their calendar program placed the meeting at the right time of the day. 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 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/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 is 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 at a glance. If you are able to fit the appropriate details in the subject line, then leave the location blank.
3. Remember the “message” section! Include as many supporting details as appropriate in the “message” section of the invite.
The message section of a meeting invitation is often ignored completely. This is the perfect place for ALL other details related to the meeting you are scheduling.
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, note that also 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 are changing or cancelling only one in a series, note that in the cancellation message that you send so the meeting attendees know exactly what is being changed, updated, or cancelled.
How to 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 in your office 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 more fully!
REMEMBER: Saving Time & Making Others More Productive = Value Added Service
Why is such a seemingly simple task of meeting scheduling 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 30 minutes of wasted time. Multiply that times five meetings per week, that’s a combined total of 2 ½ 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. Get in the habit of using these strategies now so you’re fully prepared when your role changes, you already have these “value added” meeting planning practices fully in use.
© 2011 Julie Perrine International, LLC
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Julie Perrine, CPS/CAP, is a personality strategist, personal brand analyst, and administrative mentor who teaches administrative professionals and entrepreneurs how to increase their professional opportunities and achieve more productive and meaningful relationships by utilizing innovative technology, ideas, and people. Learn more and request your FREE copy of our special report “Creating Your Strategic Administrative Career Plan” at www.AllThingsAdmin.com