I am meeting with an account representative from a large travel provider next week, and, like every eager sales professional does, she took my email and promised to send along an invite for my Outlook calendar. As soon as I hung up the phone and counted to ten, that invite was in my inbox, waiting for me to respond.
The meeting name? It was the name of the company I work for.
I’m sure that when this sales exec looks on her calendar, she finds this information very helpful. She views the upcoming day’s events and says, “Oh, I have a meeting at 11:00 AM with Acme, Incorporated!”
But me, I look at my calendar and think, “What is this? Is this a meeting for me?” Because the title of the meeting is my company name, and that doesn’t tell me a darned thing! It says, “Acme, Incorporated” on my calendar. Yup, that’s me!
The purpose of a Revolutionary Assistant is to make EVERYONE more productive, and when you send along a request that tells a busy executive what company she works for and nothing else, that’s not productive enough! The subject of a meeting notice should contain helpful information to help attendees understand what’s going to be expected of them even before they open the invite. They should know what’s coming just by glancing at it on their smartphones or tablets. They shouldn’t have to dig.
Here are some rules that I use when sending along a meeting invite from my calendar:
Include all participants and their assistants on the send list – I like to send along a meeting notice to assistants as well as executives, so that if I’ve misspelled a name or missed an underscore in an email, the meeting will still get through and the assistant will know it’s arrived. Also, many assistants like to have important calls on their calendars, so they receive reminders as well as their managers.
Put participants and subject in the subject line – If I send out a meeting invite on behalf of my manager, I’ll write on it: “Conf Call – Jack Jones, Worldwide Widgets/John Smith, Acme, Inc.” If there are more than two people meeting, I’ll put in the company names and the highest ranking participant, or even just “Conf Call – Worldwide Widgets/Acme, Inc. – open for participants.” And then I add participants into the body of the email.
A small confession: I do help make it easier for my manager when I send out these emails. Whenever he has a call with Jack Jones, I always put Jack’s name first on the invite. Why? Because when my manager is looking at his smartphone, the calendar is small and shrinks down that invite so that only the first few words show. I want him to see Jack Jones’ name first and not his own if there’s only three words to see.
Location and dial-in info should make sense for both – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve received a meeting invite for an offsite gathering that says, “West Conference Room.” My manager has to leave the office, go to the other participant’s office, and meet with him in a conference room. That’s all they’re giving us to go on? “West Conference Room”???
If participants are coming to your office for this meeting, include all the information they’ll need to get to you. Your company name, your address, a notation that there’s a link to Google Maps or Mapquest in the body of the invite. And then, for the people participating in your own office, add that conference room name in, too. This way, the invite is useful for everyone.
Don’t include info within the body of the invite unless you point it out – I can’t tell you how many times I’ve included important information within a meeting invite, only to have an assistant accept the invitation right from her inbox, without ever opening it, without the exec ever seeing it. “Open invite for details” is one of the most valuable phrases you can use, to make sure that this critical information isn’t overlooked.
Be careful of time zones! – If you’re planning meetings on the west coast and you’re in New York, it’s sometimes helpful to indicate time zones and times in your meeting invite. Not only does it reassure your manager that you’ve considered the time zones in your placement of the meeting (the12:00 noon meeting takes place at 9:00 AM in California!), it acts as a checks and balances to make sure you’ve done the math right. If your manager’s in Asia and sees that you’ve written in that the call takes place at noon Shanghai time but accidentally added it for 11:00 AM Shanghai time, he’ll know something’s wrong and seek clarification. (Hey, sometimes time zones get mathematically confusing!!)
The next time you send out an invite, stop and think, “Is this information I’ve included going to be useful to everyone?” Does everyone know who they’re talking to and when? What can I do to make sure everyone gets together at the same time? If everyone can see the gist of the meeting at a glance, then you’ve done your job. It helps all the participants be more productive and get to the right place at the right time with the right information!
Next post: Wednesday, May 29