As your company grows from one or two offices to tens more spread across the country and the world, you’ll watch your meetings slip down a very steep slope very quickly. With more people comes less time investment in any sort of group discussion. Instead, most companies end up the in meeting rut identified by Office Team’s nationwide survey. It found that 27% of workers end up blaming team meetings for inefficiency and lack of productivity.
So what’s the solution? Cold calls or just dropping by the office next door are considered intrusive. The key, as managers have repeatedly pointed out here and here, is preparation. And the first step in preparation is the meeting invitation itself.
6 Key Elements of Effective Calendar Invites
1. Send them. Even for short, 1:1, internal conference calls, it’s very important to use electronic calendar invites for scheduling. Doing so makes sure that nobody books appointments over your meeting time, forgets or runs late. Once it’s on an electronic calendar, there’s no excuse for missing the meeting.
2. Include a “location” and contact phone number. Even if it’s not an in-person meeting, include conference call-in details, the name of the conference room or any other information that the person will need to know in order to show up. In addition to those, always put in a direct phone number for one of the organizers, in case of last minute hiccups.
3. Incorporate an agenda into the notes field. Make sure that your meeting attendees are arriving mentally prepared to discuss the topic at hand. Seeing the agenda laid out in their calendar often also forces them to take a few minutes to prepare for the meeting beforehand.
4. Use the reminder function. Set an alarm to go off 5 minutes before your meeting, so that everyone will be aware that it’s coming up. Otherwise you’re relying on people who likely last checked their calendars when they woke up this morning (if that).
5. Attachments: Zimbra, Gmail and most other cloud-based calendars allow you to attach files to the invitation itself. Use this feature to add in the weekly sales numbers or your proposed presentation for the meeting. Adding an attachment will ensure that the meeting time is spent in discussion and brainstorming instead of document review.
6. Follow-up with people who haven’t accepted the invitation 2 days before the meeting. There’s a reason you get those confirmation emails when someone accepts the meeting, and this is it. Use the information to boost efficiency instead of ignoring the lack of response. Services like Sanebox and Followup.cc can help make these reminders easier to remember.