Whether working at home and/or in the office, juggling meetings and desk work can be a challenge, even more so if you are a hybrid worker. Fortunately, a disciplined approach to meeting scheduling can help make sure all the details are in place, freeing up you and the team for the brainstorm that will earn you the reputation you deserve!


Give your calendar what it needs…

“Is your calendar up to date, Jean? I’m going to be scheduling our quarterly review.”

“Oh, of course.”


But, is it really? Or did you leave off that dentist appointment, picking up your niece… and did you include travel times and change-of-attire time, if needed?


…but not your carte blanche

Yes, your calendar can accept meetings on your behalf, but it’s not always the best idea. It’s your time, your employer’s money, and you or a delegate should vet the basics. These include: whether they need you, whether they need a meeting, whether meetings should be combined, and whether that slot is really free. Just make sure that when you see a notice, you respond promptly, either way, with an explanatory message or alternative time proposal if needed, so people can plan.


Don’t be tentative

Nine times out of ten, with a little thought or a decisive moment, that “tentative” status you selected can be changed to “accept” or “decline.” Otherwise, meetings in your calendar that are neither fish nor fowl can lead to an overlapping invitation. Or, you might end up canceling at the last moment, which might torpedo the entire meeting.


Scheduling Assistant is your friend

Sending an invitation to someone whose calendar is already booked for that time, wins you few style points.  If your calendars are not networked or if people are not keeping them up to date, you may need to ping some people directly before sending the invitation – still less time than canceling and rescheduling.


Wait…is a meeting the best thing?

There are at least three reasons that you might close Scheduling Assistant and do something else:


(1) Time zone differences within the group, that require colleagues to log in well before or after normal working hours. In other words, few people in Japan work that well at 11 pm.


(2) It’s been less than a week since the last meeting on this initiative, yet everyone was promised a week to complete their assignments. You can still check in with everyone on your Teams page.


(3) A new task with higher priority has come into play, involving several people that you would be inviting. Business is about the pivot.



A few simple rules, can make all the difference to how you communicate.

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Choose the cast wisely

Start with the right group. Attendees can still forward an invitation as needed  (unless you specified otherwise), which is especially helpful if they need to delegate or loop in another group. However, when you begin with the core group, you preserve head-down time for others.


If using a distribution list to invite people, skim it before setting up the meeting. Then remove those who can catch up later, will be involved more in a future phase, or whose discipline is already represented by someone else on the list.


Once you have sent an invitation, if a key RSVP is missing, don’t hesitate to reach out. If that person is unavailable, better to know early so you can get a substitute or reschedule, so others can reclaim the slot.


Hail the who’s who

If external constituents, such as vendors, customers, or partners will be attending, make sure everyone knows that (you can send both internal and external versions of the invitation).


When you send the external invitation, if applicable, it’s thoughtful to let your guests know who’s who on your side, either in an agenda attachment or other cheat sheet. The same is true for letting your internal colleagues know about any external guests they haven’t met before. Then, each side can look further on LinkedIn or elsewhere to get more background, if they want.


Otherwise, you’re depending on a rapid-fire introduction process at the start of the call that relies on your guests’ note-taking skills, and that’s a challenging way to begin. When the “who’s who” is communicated in advance,  the “what” and “why” often flow more naturally.


Don’t fear feedback

If you’re finding that you seem to be having the same meeting over and over, a few honest conversations can usually reveal why. You may have the wrong group, someone may be “mugging for the camera,”  another may be camera-shy,  the task may be too large or poorly defined, or key dependencies may be unfinished.


Sometimes chunking the group into smaller workgroups or breakout rooms, or taking the action off video and onto a Teams page, can help. There’s also the option of simply pausing and asking the group where they think things should go from here, with the option to speak within the group, message you privately, work things out offline, etc.


Think outside the screen

At some point, everyone has “video overload.” Your phone still works when you select audio only, and that can take the pressure off certain conversations. So if video meetings aren’t proving productive, it never hurts to try the old-fashioned way.