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The Sched-rules: Scheduling meetings to build the best relationships

Calendar
(Image credit: Pixabay)

From meeting invite tennis to calendar tetris, we are all well versed in the everyday gruntwork of scheduling. But it’s time to ask: can we turn the tasks that are taking time into a way of making time?

The technology is there. The question largely remains around the shared etiquette that will get everyone aligned and scheduling in the most efficient way possible.

Questions like: is it okay to send someone an open link to your calendar so they can pick their own dates? How many times slots should you offer someone? etc.

About the author

Adam Bird is co-founder and CEO of Cronofy

After years working on scheduling with some of the world’s most respected brands, we thought it was time to formalize the etiquette of scheduling to make everyone's lives easier.

So these are our “Sched-rules”. Read them, live them, share them and let’s make the world of scheduling better.

Scheduling should be 'one click', not endless email

Imagine if online shops required you to discuss every detail through email. It would drive you mad. Instead, you just click a button and it does the work for you.

Nobody wants to be sending dates and times back and forth manually. Before you know it, you’re five emails in and still nothing works. Instead, it’s a no brainer to send your guest an email that let’s them pick and automatically confirm the time and date they can do.

However, these one click links are not all born equal. In some cases, they expose your calendar indefinitely. So if you tweet that URL to a customer, be ready for anyone in the world to book into your schedule whenever they want, with whatever details they want. A nightmare for customer service.

Don't make your guests do the work

Perhaps the biggest scheduling faux pas is sending someone a totally generic link that doesn’t even include their details. It’s 100% impersonal, with 0% effort on your part.

It doesn’t feel considerate, so a great way to show that you care is to personalize it with their details.

Without this, you are immediately making a first impression that they aren’t important enough for you to even take a second customizing it.

Yes, it should be easy and fast for you. But make sure you aren’t just offloading the effort onto them. Use a tool where you can fill out any details from your side that you may already know. That just leaves the times for them to choose.

Remember, you’re also a guest in their calendar. If someone adds a meeting named “call with Adam” to my schedule, it’s not immediately clear when I’m reviewing my day. Be explicit about the participants or purpose of the meeting, for example “Call: Max <> Adam”. Your guest should instantly grasp the context on first scan.

Offer five to six options

Sometimes it’s a numbers game. If you can, try to spread options for meeting across at least two different times on three different days. This is the best way to cover most of the week and make meetings work first time. And don’t forget timezones...

A spread across mornings and afternoons will also maximise your chances. This is especially true in a world of increasing working from home, where people are juggling other responsibilities alongside their usual working day.

Give your guests your full attention

You can’t control the other person’s calendar but you can make sure you’re able to focus fully on the meeting. 

Make sure you have a buffer period on either side of your meetings. It allows you to properly prepare, reading any materials, acquainting yourself with the agenda and background to the meeting. It also means you haven’t got that rushed wrap up at the end. 

If the meeting is going well or there is more to discuss, having some time for it to overrun by five or so minutes takes the pressure off. You can make sure everything is covered and perhaps avoid a follow-up meeting saving time for everyone. 

Removing the pressure of back to back also puts you in a mode to be more personable. 

We’re spending a lot of time on video calls at the moment and it’s easy to forget the important human aspect of interactions. Give yourself time to get to know the person you’re interacting with.

Book less time

When you really boil them down, meetings commonly consist of two things: sharing info and getting feedback. 

It’s very easy to automatically book in half an hour or an hour without thinking about the cost in time. Notoriously, you should work out the cost of meetings by adding together the billable time of everyone attending.

To minimize this cost, think about how tools might be used to share information ahead of time, instead of covering it in the room. Can you use something like Loom to talk through what you want to discuss, so everyone starts the meeting on the same page? Can you request ideas or questions in advance to get a sense of the required agenda instead of making assumptions? Do you even need the meeting at all?

Once again, technology shows the potential to minimize costly drawn out and draining meetings and replace them with ultra-efficient get-togethers that only cover what they need to.

Integrated scheduling

Finally, if you’re building tools that require scheduling, it should be integrated straight in. You shouldn’t be making users jump out into a calendar app then back in to pick times.

If it can be automated, it should be automated. Native scheduling in this way is the holy grail of customer experience: faster, better, easier. 

Great scheduling is almost invisible in most areas, and then extremely visible and impressive in the care it shows for your guest. It’s an opportunity to kick off professional relationships with a sense of ease instead of burden.

But most importantly, if we can get everyone on the same page about how to achieve this, it should make everyone’s lives easier.