Following up on my post about the benefits of speedy meetings, here’s a collection of tips that I think improve calendaring etiquette. Some of these are personal preference, but all of them feel like genuine improvements to me in real life.
Only One Calendar Actually Exists
Calendar technology and apps just aren’t universally multi-calendar-friendly. Perhaps more importantly, people’s personal calendar workflows aren’t all universally multi-calendar-friendly. The only universal thing that actually works (in my experience) is treating everyone as if they have only a single calendar: their own. Nothing else exists for them.
This means that the inevitable ideas to use shared calendars to coordinate, or broadcast information, or whatever—just don’t work in my experience.
A couple of scenarios I’ve seen tried:
- “We want to make sales calls visible to engineers so they can join a call and listen to what customers have to say, if they want to.”
- “We’re scheduling our time at the conference on the conference-specific calendars. Everyone’s booth duty is on the Booth Duty calendar. Be at the booth when you’re scheduled. Everyone’s customer meetings are on the Customer Meetings calendar. Don’t miss a meeting.”
There are others: put your vacations as events on the Vacation calendar, etc. I’ve seen this tried lots of times and lots of different ways, and I have never seen it work, not one single time. You want me at the booth for Booth Duty? You have to invite my calendar. Not some other calendar. There’s simply no other way to make sure I don’t get double booked, to make sure I receive and accept and commit, to make sure I can keep track of things.
On the flip side, nobody remembers to schedule the sales call on the Sales Calendar, they schedule it on their own. Nobody can manage shared calendars, only their own. Neither in observing what’s on it, nor in putting things on it.
An event that isn’t on my calendar doesn’t exist as far as I’m concerned. Secondary/shared calendars for other purposes all fail in their own ways and for their own reasons. To paraphrase Anna Karenina: All successful personal calendars are alike; each failed shared calendar is failed in its own way.
Use Agendas, They’re Powerful
My personal rule is never to send a calendar invitation outside of my inner circle without a clear agenda. I think this is a highly effective habit to create. It doesn’t matter that you just got off the phone agreeing on the agenda for tomorrow’s call. It doesn’t matter that you’re both going to remember. Put it into the agenda of the invitation.
The agenda is your chance to sell the event. The person is going to forward the event to someone who wasn’t on that call, and the title of the event isn’t enough. The agenda should be less than half the length of this paragraph.
For me, personally, you’re much more likely to get me to attend meetings with a clear agenda. I don’t feel obligated to come to meetings that I didn’t participate in setting up, most of the time. So when I just randomly get an invitation, I treat it like an FYI, not an obligation or even a request. If it has a clear agenda, it’s a different matter.
Respect Different Calendar Apps
People use all kinds of different calendar apps. The only universally usable and available fields are the title, location, and note/description. Your event/invitation needs to contain all of the important information in at least two of those fields.
A bad invitation:
Title: Product Planning
Location: (some video call URL)
A better invitation:
Title: Product Planning (Video Call)
Location: (some video call URL)
Note: (repeat the video call URL)
Some calendar apps are badly incompatible with the first invitation. They think the location is a physical address, and it doesn’t matter what it is, they’ll try to open a map app. Unsurprisingly, Google Maps can’t look up directions to a Zoom call.
On the other hand, the video call URL should also be in the location, because some calendar apps won’t show description/note fields, or make them hard to access. There’s a variety of annoying behaviors in different apps. In some apps, for example, trying to click on a link in a description/note field doesn’t open the link, it puts the calendar into editing mode and tries to edit the note. In others, copy/paste functionality on mobile apps is disabled for the location field, so you can’t copy a URL and paste it into the zoom app. And if you want to invite a Zoom Rooms room, it only looks in the description field, so an invitation with a URL in the location doesn’t work. And so on, and so on. The only workable solution is to put all the important information in both places.
The important information for a video call should always include a dial-in number for those on mobile devices, by the way.
Here’s a few things that go a long ways towards making people happy with your calendaring etiquette:
- Don’t reply to calendar invitations in email to have a conversation. A lot of email apps prioritize showing the calendar information in their user interface. A discussion that is attached to an email thread, that’s associated with an event, gets usurped by the event information.
- For Google Calendar specifically, go into your Google Apps control panel and turn off the feature that automatically adds a Google Hangout call to every new event. Sending a video call invitation with two different video calls attached is confusing and leads to missed calls.
- When you’re the owner of an event and you want to cancel it, don’t just decline to attend it. Cancel it so it’s removed from everyone’s calendar. Otherwise people show up for events like 1-to-1 meetings without realizing everyone else declined the meeting. Some calendars warn you about this, but others don’t; like everything, it’s inconsistent from app to app.
- Never send unsolicited event invitations by email. When companies send out notices of webinars, and attach a calendar invitation to hijack the recipients and reserve time on their calendar; or when a sales rep is doing cold-emailing and sending invitations for the same reason; it feels extremely disrespectful. A lot of peoples’ calendars are set to mark them unavailable during times they’ve been invited to an event, even if they haven’t accepted it. This is why pushy companies or sales reps do this, trying to wedge themselves in without permission. For me, this is so rude. It’s the type of thing that gets your entire domain blocked permanently at the firewall.
Good calendar hygiene and manners make everyone happy and productive. What have you learned about calendaring that improves it?