Automation is seeping seamlessly into our daily tasks, many of which now go completely unnoticed. Meeting schedules shouldn’t be any different. Take Chatbots for example, many people prefer an instant response to their request rather than having to wait for the information. The HR bots now available, and, on the horizon are a perfect testament to this – VentureBeat covered a few possible executions.
Everything can’t be (and shouldn’t be) automated, many interactions need human engagement and go far beyond simple automation. That being said, if it’s an easy switch and an immediate improvement – then why wouldn’t you? There are many aspects of email that are already automated, think “out of office replies”, “email signatures with your sign out/name”, “prefilled email addresses” – automated meeting scheduling is just another notch on this list.
We all know how the average email trail goes:
“Great – what time works for you? I can’t do Wednesday afternoon but I’m free Thursday morning between 9am-10.30am”.
And so it begins, the constant back and forth of meeting time tennis. A huge amount of time is wasted, some 4.5 hours per week – on scheduling meetings via email and phone. This can amount to a chunky 234 hours out of your productive time a year. This overly familiar and prosaic back and forth adds an unnecessary and unpleasant step to an otherwise positive action: you’ve agreed that a meeting needs to take place and actions need to happen. Agreeing on something as simple and mundane as “when” – shouldn’t then eat into that time.
Many of us just aren’t aware of an alternative or have become too complacent with the current setup. Ergo, we continue to partake in the daily tournament of meeting ping pong – who gives in first, wins!
The good news is that there are literally dozens of awesome options to kick your bad scheduling habits into touch. All of which can easily be added into an email signature or dropped onto the team page on a company website. Automated meeting scheduling works beautifully not only for external comms but also internally – and even better with teams. If you read my last article on productivity and email management, this is a natural addition to your digital arsenal.
The calendar automation app market is pretty busy, with a myriad of options available, for reference I’ll cover a few unique options below. Calendly: a slick and simple calendar scheduler, Hubspot: an all-in-one CRM with scheduling tools, and Rallly: team voting based scheduling.
However, this is far from an exhaustive list and more of a nudge towards trialling meeting automation tools. A few notable mentions not listed below, mainly due to not having used them extensively are Doodle, the largest calendar scheduler in the market, Assitant.to and TimeBridge.
The core premise of Calendly is to make scheduling meetings easier, it does this very well. Calendly, like the others in this list, integrates directly with your Google or Office 365 calendar, also with a unique URL and multi-scheduling options. Calendly is also time zone aware during setup and scheduling, which should avoid any crossed communication.
The app features some decent organisation tools which let you create custom meeting calendars. Like the other platforms, you can also add customised questions, albeit with some inflexibility – it’s not a master data capture form.
Hubspot is an all-in-one CRM with an awesome Meetings tool (We use it at Runaway). It connects to your inbox, syncs with your calendar and plugs directly into the CRM. The whole experience is a streamlined, pain-free process. Just make sure you setup your timezone correctly first!
The Meeting tool works by providing users with a unique URL (you can customise these) which can be shared via email to invite people to view their availability and book time. It’s an extra time saver to just drop the link permanently into your signature. The best part is the notification, once a contact has scheduled a meeting, Hubspot sends an automatic notification of the booking via email and adds it to your calendar, as well as saving the details of the contact into your CRM.
Rallly is geared towards teams and utilises an intuitive voting system – however, this is more suited to larger teams of 3 or more. For large teams, Rallly makes scheduling meetings a dream, Rallly allows users to create elegant and simple polls, where participants can vote on a specific day for an event that suits them. It also features an open comment section on the actual meeting page on which participants can discuss the topics/agenda for the day. Rallly is completely free and open source, available on Github.