9.4 Inviting participants
Ensuring that all participants can attend can be challenging if you are arranging a large meeting. To assist with this, arrange the meeting at a time the key participants are available and agree if a recording will be made available for those who cannot attend. Gather any items they may wish to raise and plan to contribute on their behalf.
If you are responsible for organising reoccurring meetings, such as committee or steering group meetings, you often find that ‘guest’ participants attend for an allocated time slot to contribute or present on their agenda item. When confirming their availability, you need to ensure they understand the format of the meeting and what will be expected of them during the time they are due to attend. Do not assume that the person who has requested they attend has done this.
Activity 28 Set up a meeting, use a meeting poll tool
If you are responsible for sending out meeting requests, most work-based office email tools have a ‘scheduler function’ that allows you to see when people are free. If it is not clear, reach out to participants and ask for their availability rather than sending a meeting request when they have time blocked out. For those in less senior positions, it can make them feel obliged to change their plans or be concerned how it will be perceived if they can’t accept a meeting. If your organisation allows you to, where you have large numbers of participants, there are online tools you can use to assist with arranging meetings.
Explore if your organisation’s calendar tool has a built-in meeting poll tool.
For example, if you use Microsoft 365, with Outlook there is an add-in for scheduling meetings. The article from Microsoft Support (n.d.), ‘How to create a FindTime poll’ [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] , takes you through the steps to do this.
Or you can do an internet search using ‘free meeting availability poll’, which will return a number of tools that are free to use. If you do use these, ensure you are working with your organisation’s guidelines for use of third-party tools.
I often use Doodle, as it is free to use and does not require me to create an account. I can create a poll and email to potential participants so they can select the times they are free and submit, so I can be sure to choose the time that is most suitable.
Once you are happy that your agenda is ready, it can then be circulated to all participants. Where a participant has indicated they may require additional support, it is sensible to message them directly with information as to how they will be supported.