Have you ever been stood up for a meeting?
It stinks, especially if you are hoping to connect with an important contact like a job interviewer or a sales lead.
Even if the meeting is on Zoom, a no-show may be less disruptive to your schedule, but it is still demoralizing. Have you heard of “switching time?” Researchers found that it takes 25 minutes to switch your focus from one task to another. That is 25 minutes before the meeting to switch from what you were doing before it, and 25 minutes after the non-meeting to move on to the next task that are lost.
Email Invitations that Prevent No-shows
One of the best ways to avoid this situation is to pay more attention to crafting a meeting invitation.
You have probably been guilty of forgetting meetings, missing reminders, and scrambling to find the invitation only to be too late.
It does not have to happen to you. Here is how you can reduce missed meetings—by you and those you want to meet.
1. Leverage the subject line.
It is easy to overlook the subject line of calendar invites. But it is what appears in the inbox of invitees and on the calendar itself. Make the calendar subject line work for you by including the details of the meeting:
- Location (phone call, video call, office or venue name)
- Company name of the inviter
- Company name of the invitee
- Name of the inviter
- Name(s) of the invitees
- Purpose of the meeting
Having all that data upfront will help burn the meeting into peoples' make it easier for them to catch up if they jump in at the last minute.
2. Include the Location and Communication Channel
We are all guilty of opening meeting invitations that we have accepted at the last minute, and there is often confusion about how to connect. Getting locations and communications channels wrong is one of the biggest reasons people miss meetings. Put the place, time, and communications channel (phone, video, in-person) in the subject line. You want to let people know:
- Who will be calling who
- What phone number will be used
- Links to video conferencing
- Any access codes
- Location of meeting venue
- Address if the meeting venue if offsite
- Directions if relevant
- Estimated time from invitee's office to venue
- Parking information if needed
Use the location field of the invitation to provide as much information as possible to avoid miscues. Your goal is to ensure that the meeting happens. Including all these details may feel overkill, but it will also communicate your professionalism and that the meeting is important.
3. Repeat the Details in the Description Field
Depending on your calendar app and the meeting location, the information may not fit in the location field. Even if the details work, repeat them all in the description window. You want to limit confusion or misunderstanding. Other information you can include:
- Your contact information should the invitee need to reach you
- Purpose of the meeting
- Any documents to review
You are getting the message: you cannot be too thorough. The more important the meeting is to you and your business, the more detailed you should include in the invitation.
4. Include the Time Zone(s)
How often have you missed a meeting or been caught off guard when someone called you three hours early because of confusion about time zones? In this work-from-anywhere world, there is less and less certainty about peoples' physical location. Even if you know where someone works, they could be traveling in a different time zone. You can specify:
- The time zone of the meeting
- The time in the sender's time zone
- The time in the recipient's time zone
If you regularly with people in other time zones, some calendar apps allow you to view time zones in parallel to see two or more at the same time. Side-by-side time zones can help avoid inadvertently scheduling something at 3 AM for yourself or the recipient.
Also, pay attention to Daylight Savings Time. Arizona and Hawaii do not use it. Some countries have Daylight Savings Time, and others do not. The timing of Daylight Savings Times also differs from country to country.
5. Confirmation, Confirmation, Confirmation
A confirmation email is super powerful. It is incredible how few people confirm calls in advance. It takes little effort, and it has a massive impact on connecting. Appointment app Apto says confirmations increase meeting attendance by 90 percent. The other 10 percent are far more likely to reschedule instead of not showing up. Sending confirmations is another way to display professionalism and enthusiasm about the meeting.
Your confirmation message should include all the details that were in the original invite and one of two messages:
- A request for a response to confirm the meeting
- A message that no response is needed as you are assuming the appointment is confirmed
Some people don't like to request an email response because if there is none, there can be confusion as to whether the recipient will show up. The contact accepted the meeting, you have sent the confirmation message. That should do it. Others want the rock-solid return confirmation.
You should also include an invitation to reschedule if needed. A rescheduled meeting is better than a missed meeting.
It is also important to remind your invitees of the purpose of the meeting and any materials they should bring. When someone remembers a meeting at the last minute, they are unprepared or unfocused on the topic. You want them to be as prepared as possible.
Keeping Up with Email Invitations
If you are scheduling many meetings, keeping track of them and sending confirmation can take a lot of time. Scheduling app Doodle found that it takes 20-25 minutes to schedule a business meeting. There are a lot of back-and-forth messages to find a time that works for everyone. Multiply those 20 minutes across multiple appointments per week, and it turns into a lot of time. Calendar app Calendly says executives spend 4.5 hours per week coordinating meetings. While the calls are valuable, scheduling and coordinating the logistics is not the best use of your time.
Delegate Meeting Invitations to a Virtual Assistants
One way you can get those 4.5 hours back is by delegating your scheduling to a virtual assistant. Scheduling is typically one of the first tasks a virtual assistant takes on. A good virtual assistant will help you document how and when you want your meetings scheduled, including:
- How you like to format invitations
- Type of meetings you prefer (video, phone, office, offsite)
- Where you like to hold offsite meetings (preferred restaurants, venues)
- Preferred time of day for meetings
- Blocked out times where you don't want to be disturbed
- Meeting length for different audiences (customers, employees, vendors, etc.)
- Preferred buffer time (break) between meetings
- How and when to send confirmations to invitees
- How and when to send reminders to you
- Any briefing documents you would like to have on hand for the meeting
- How to notify you about rescheduled appointments
You can see that there is a lot more to scheduling than agreeing on a meeting time. That is why managing your calendar consumes so much time.
Meeting Invitation Examples
Here is a template for a phone meeting invitation sent by a Prialto virtual assistant for a Prialto executive.
Subject: Phone call: Introduction call with <recipient name and organization> and <Prialto rep>
Hello (first name),
Your call has been scheduled as follows:
Date: (Day, Month, date)
Time: (Time AM/PM) (Time Zone)
For this call: (Sender) to call (Recipient's Name) at (Contact Number)
(Sender's) contact number is (XXX-XXX-XXX)
Please let me know if you have any questions.
(Name and Signature)
This is an example of a meeting confirmation template:
SUBJECT: Confirming your appointment on <date>, <time> <time zone> with <Prialto rep>
Good afternoon <recipient>,
I would just like to touch base and confirm your call with <Prialto rep> tomorrow, <date> <time> <time zone>.
For this call: <Prialto rep> will call you at xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Do not hesitate to get in touch with me if you have any questions or if anything changes.
<name> - Assistant to <Prialto rep>
Get More from Your Email Invitations
A successful meeting begins with a successful invitation. Too many people take the invitation lightly. Get it right, and you will book more meetings with customers and colleagues. If you would like to offload meeting invitations and confirmation along with other administrative work (travel planning, expenses, data entry, invoicing), Prialto can help. To learn what it is like to work with Prialto, download this guide.
About the Author: Bill is Prialto's senior content marketing manager and writes about the future of work and how businesses can be more productive and successful. His work has appeared in the World Economic Forum Agenda blog and CIO magazine.