Monday, June 4, 2012

Meeting planning using Microsoft Outlook

I'm a great fan of Microsoft products and Microsoft Outlook is one of my 'can't live without' tool for now.  I use it for email communication, keep track of all my tasks, view meetings and plan my daily activities through the calendar function.  Its a great tool if you are practicing Time Management.  I have come across several ways of planning and organizing meetings and there is 'NO' single source that gave me a comfortable view on how to most effectively plan and handle Outlook meetings.   The product is so vast and sometimes it is really overwhelming for the beginners.  Please be aware that this blog does not cover all the aspects of Outlook and I've compiled how I manage meetings through it.  

This post, a combination of some of the best ways to use Outlook and few tips on the Invitation etiquette's,  is intended for the basic users or beginners of Microsoft Outlook to help effectively plan meetings.  There are no detailed description given since the intention is to keep it simple.  Refer to Microsoft Outlook help documentation to learn more.

  • What are the key meeting invitation contents?
    • Meeting Attendees
      • Include the correct email addresses and ensure you are inviting the right participants 
      • Include the name of the conference room resources to make reservations.  Re-plan the meeting venue if the conference room is not available
    • Time
      • Outlook allows you to specify the Start Time, End Time and also an option to mark as all day event  
      • Use scheduling assistance to view the availability of the participants  
    • Place
      • Clearly mention how and where the meeting will be held
      • Check the telephone / communication mediums
    • Meeting mode
      • Live meeting - choose the Live Meeting as a meeting mode if your Outlook is already configured to have one.  Generally works well if the participants have to connect from outside the organization.  Live Meeting also provides you an option to record the meeting.
        • Remember to identify the 'presenters'
      • Communicator call - choose the Conference Call as a meeting mode if your Outlook is already configured to have one.  Generally works well within the organization.
      • Telephone Conference - do not forget to mention how the 'screen' will be shared.
        • Share the conference details
      • In person - do not forget to include where the meeting will be held
    • Meeting options
      • Mark your meeting as 'private' if you don't want anyone to view the meeting contents even if your calendar is shared   
      • Marking 'private' also hides the contents of the meeting if the meeting is viewed from a public calendar like a 'Conference room'  
      • Set recurrence - Add the attendees names only after you confirm that the recurrence set by you is accurate.  If the recurrence is wrong then there will be multiple email invites sent by Outlook which is very confusing and annoying to the multiple recipients
    • Agenda
      • Clearly write the Agenda of the meeting - this will help the invitees to get prepared for the meeting or suggest any other key topics to be included
    • Expected outcome of the meeting
      • This is another very important topic.  Along with the clear agenda mention what to expect from the meeting
    • Attachments / links and references
      • Include file attachments, links and references for the participants to read and get prepared before attending the meeting
    • Preparations needed / by whom
      • Include if you want someone to come up with any research before the meeting.  You don't want to plan for another meeting if the preparations are important
  • How to handle the various responses you received to a meeting?
    • Accepted
      • Optionally you can thank the person for accepting by a return email
    • Declined
      • With reason
        • Not the right person
          • Approach different person or ask for the right person
        • Agenda is not appropriate
          • Change and propose new agenda or ask for recommendation
        • Timing is not correct
          • Change the time (ideally the person declined should have used Propose Alternate time)
        • Location is not convenient
          • Change the location to mutual one
        • Meeting communication mode is not convenient
          • Change the mode of the meeting
      • Without reason
        • Ask for reason
    • Propose alternate time
      • Accept if the new time is acceptable to you
      • Propose a different time if the proposed time is not acceptable to you
    • Tentative
      • With reason
        • If the person is unclear about his / her availability
          • Propose a different time
        • Unclear about the agenda
      • Without reason
        • Ask for reason
    • No response
      • Send a gentle reminder
        • Send an email about the importance of the meeting
        • walk up to the person or call that person to remind
        • Leave a voice mail
  • What do you do during the meeting?
    • Use the Linked Meeting Notes to capture your meeting minutes in OneNote.  Its very effective and you can organize all your meeting notes in one place.
  • What do you do after the meeting?
    • Send the minutes of the meeting to all participants.  Additionally you may CC to your manager
    • Clearly write the action items along with the identified owners.  Follow up if required
    • Thank everyone for attending and contributing to the meeting
    • Send the invite for the next meeting 

Happy organizing meetings!

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