Great meetings start with great invitations
Jason Weiss, Ph.D.
President, Evacor Inc.
I'm a big fan of Andrea’s approach to networking because it
has a lot of wisdom around how people work. One of her key insights is that small
courtesies like thank-you notes can mean a lot: They show that you value the
other person, that you are professional, polished, and in charge of the
details, and that you want to have a positive impact.
An electronic meeting invitation is a great small courtesy:
You’re sharing an entry on your Outlook or other online calendar with someone
to make it easier for them to keep track of the event. Just like thank-you
notes, good meeting invitations help to build that strong impression of you,
but, done right, they’re more than a courtesy: They also make calendars easier
to read and significantly reduce the stress of getting to the meeting. Are you
interested in making a good impression and having less stress? Read on!
Here are three quick and easy tips to help you create professional-class
invitations that pave the way for positive, productive meetings. These tips
will work for you whether you use Outlook (where invitations are called
“Meeting Requests”), Google’s GMail, or pretty much any other calendar system.
TIP 1: USE DOUBLE-BARRELED SUBJECT LINES THAT TELL EVERYONE
WHAT THEY NEED TO KNOW
The subject of the meeting is what you and your meeting
partner(s) will see on your calendar, so build it around
two key pieces of information: 1) What
the meeting is about, and 2) Who it’s with. These two elements together
will provide a powerful reminder when you both look at your calendar later on. Being
both concise and clear is the key, since long subject lines are hard to read on
smartphones and small “reminder” messages on laptop screens. A short subject
line such as, “Networking meeting: Andrea Nierenberg/Jason Weiss” says
everything we need to know in just a few words.
TIP 2: MAKE LOCATIONS “SMART”
Many current smartphones can intelligently use properly
formatted telephone numbers and street addresses in calendar entries to link to
dialing and mapping/navigation apps, respectively. Here’s what to put in the
“Location” box to make it happen:
- If the
meeting is by phone, say who is calling whom (use initials) and at what number.
For example: “JW will call AN at (212) 555-1212.” If it’s a conference call,
note whether callers have to press # after the meeting ID or password.
- If the
meeting is in a location for which travel is necessary, give both the name and
address. For example, “XYZ Business Club, 2 W. 45th St., New York, NY
10036.” A long “Location” entry is unreadable on smartphones, so enter “See
notes” and use the area for notes at the bottom of the meeting invitation to
provide any extra detail.
- If the
meeting is in a hotel, Starbucks, or other location where there are multiple
places with the same name, specify which one. I once had a meeting set up
for the Hilton in Newark, only to discover that it was at the airport Hilton,
rather than the one downtown. Guess which one I went to first?
TIP 3: PUT DETAILS AND NOTES WHERE
In Outlook, there’s a big,
unlabeled box for additional notes at the bottom of the meeting request window.
Google’s GMail’s calendar system has a similar box, labeled “Description.”
These are great places to put additional details, depending on the meeting. Based
on the specifics of what you include, it may be helpful to put a pointer in the
subject line or location to say that there is more to be found (e.g., “Dial-in
information and webinar link in notes”). Here are some helpful examples of what
you can put in the additional notes:
- A phone number to call if the other person is
late or lost—particularly useful if you are meeting out of the office and the
other person is used to calling you at your desk.
- A copy/paste of an email that set up the meeting
- Detailed instructions for getting to the meeting
location (e.g., security check-in, what entrance to use, etc.).
THREE BONUS TIPS TO TAKE YOUR MEETINGS TO THE NEXT LEVEL
- If you offer to provide a meeting invitation,
put it together and send it as soon as possible. As with any courtesy, the
positive effects wear off quickly if there’s a lag between making the offer and
- Phone or email to confirm meetings 2-3 business
days ahead. As a side benefit, your meeting partner may be prompted to provide
you additional, late-breaking information that you can use to prepare for the
- Make sure you know your meeting partner’s time
zone when setting up the meeting, then check on it when confirming the meeting
as described above (e.g., “Confirming that we are on for our meeting at 3pm
ET…”). This will be especially helpful if your partner regularly travels across
R. Jason Weiss, Ph.D.
1701 McFarland Rd., Suite 200, Pittsburgh, PA 15216-1812
(412) 388-0163 Ext. 26 (phone)