I don’t know about you, but I often find the process of scheduling meetings (those that involve multiple participants) a bit inefficient, if not dreadful.
Quite often I get email messages like this:
Can you meet with me and Jan about that thing some time this week?
Let’s assume I know what that thing is. It would still be nice to know approximately how long the meeting will take, along with a few suggested dates and times.
Don’t get me wrong. I sincerely appreciate all invitations to meetings. This usually means that someone is interested in hiring me or collaborating with me on some project. These are good things. And the people who send such email messages are often doing so from a portable device, on the run, with only a few minutes between commitments. Maybe even at a stop light. And they’re probably even writing me first, to give me first choice.
So I don’t begrudge such invitations. I simply wish there were a better way.
And I think I found it: SurveyMonkey!
Earlier today, two clients and I agreed to check out Google Hangout. I decided to create a survey with SurveyMonkey (I’m still on the FREE plan) to collect everyone’s preferred dates and times.
It worked like a charm.
Step 1: Create the Survey
I created the survey with just two questions:
- a “Single Textbox” question for the respondent’s name (unnecessary, it turns out)
- a “Matrix of Choices (Multiple Answers per Row)” question for the dates and times
Note how simple it was to generate a survey with 28 options! You just enter the Row Choices (in my case, 4 dates) in one box and the Column Choices (hour timeslots) in another:
And here’s the result:
Step 2: Add an Email Collector
I wanted to use the Email Collector data collection method, because it stores and associates each respondent’s name and email address with his or her responses.
The wizard for this data collection method takes you through the process of:
- adding recipients for the invitation (email, first name, last name, and a custom value)
- setting the from email address for the invitiation (which needs to be verified)
- creating the invitation message, including special shortcode-like codes for embedding the URL of the survey and, optionally, personalized stuff like “FirstName”
- scheduling the mailing of the invitation (one option of which is “immediately”, which means “in 5 minutes”)
I set my invitation to “immediately”, and, sure enough, the message went out within five minutes. (I know this because I was one of the recipients.
Step 3: Anaylize Results
It’s easy to see that when more responses are received, it’ll be easy to determine which dates and times will work for everyone. (Just look for the 100%s.)
And here’s what the “Browse Responses” screen looks like:
Before deciding to use SurveyMonkey, I looked at Meeting Wizard, based on a recommendation from a colleague. While also free, Meeting Wizard was too structured for this particular circumstance. If I had used Meeting Wizard, I would have had to add 28 separate dates/times (or just 24, if I were to exclude “Unavailable”).
So, next time you want to schedule a meeting with multiple participants, consider firing up SurveyMonkey. The free version currently supports:
- an unlimited number of surveys
- 10 questions per survey
- 100 responses per survey
And, of course, SurveyMonkey can do so much more than schedule meetings.
Need or want help getting over the SurveyMonkey learning curve? Give me a shout!
Please feel free to post comments and questions below.
What tools do you use for scheduling meetings? Do you think you might try SurveyMonkey? Let’s hear from you in the comments below.