This post is targeted at SUNY Potsdam personnel who have Meeting Maker accounts. If that’s not you, stop reading now because this won’t make much sense!
There are two very useful features in Meeting Maker that I have come to realize are very underutilized on our campus.
1) Auto Pick. In the days of paper-based calendars, secretaries/assistants had to spend a lot of time coordinating schedules and arranging meetings. Responsible use of Meeting Maker makes this unnecessary, though I suspect an awful lot of this still goes on. Assuming that everyone with whom you would like to meet is a user of Meeting Maker, all you need to do is create the meeting and invite the guests. You can decide if they are "required" (i.e., you can’t practically hold the meeting without them) or "optional" (their participation isn’t critical). As you add them, Meeting Maker will indicate whether or not they are available. If anyone is unavailable, you can schedule the meeting at that time anyhow and tell them they have to go (and reschedule whatever is in the way–probably only an option if you are their boss!) or you can use Meeting Maker’s "auto pick" feature, which will automatically pick the next block of time that is long enough to hold the meeting and in which all required attendees are available.
I used the phrase "responsible use of Meeting Maker." This needs definition. I define "responsible use" as setting your preferences to indicate your general availability, e.g., Monday-Friday, 8:00-4:30. "Responsible use" also includes accounting for ALL of your time commitments in Meeting Maker. If it’s blocking your availability, it should be in Meeting Maker. This includes lunch, meetings with people who don’t use Meeting Maker, days off, taking your dog to the vet, etc. You might be leery of putting personal information into Meeting Maker, but that’s what the "Private" option is for. When you create an event, click on the "Options" tab and check the "Private" check box. That event then blocks your time (so people know you are unavailable) and appears as "Private" to all of your proxies (anyone else you have given permission to see your calendar–even those with read/write access). If you don’t account for all of your time commitments, then you are "fair game" for anyone else trying to schedule time with you!
2) Inflexible Banners. Let’s say you’re going to a 3-day conference. You want people to know you are unavailable, but you also want to use Meeting Maker to track the sessions you’ll be attending at the conference. I’ve seen several people who block off the whole day with a "meeting" that says "conference" (or something) as a means of ensuring that no one (or auto-pick) thinks they are available on those days. Scheduling overlapping meetings in Meeting Maker is possible, but it’s clunky, annoying, and ugly.
There’s a better way. Create a banner spanning multiple days to indicate your conference. As you are creating the banner (giving it a title and setting the date and duration), click the "Options" tab. You will see that by default, all banners are "flexible." If you un-check "flexible," the banner will automatically block off your entire day! This leaves the day free for your personal use. You can put in your conference sessions and anything else you want. Or let’s say you want next Friday as a working "day off". Instead of scheduling a "meeting" (with yourself) that runs from 8-4:30, you can just create a banner called "No Meetings" and remove the "flexible" option.
Playing Schedule-My-Boss phone tag is something no one needs to be doing anymore (if everyone concerned is using Meeting Maker)! If all users are diligent about keeping their calendars up to date, scheduling people should be a breeze.
If you have questions about either of these features, schedule a meeting with me in Meeting Maker. My calendar is up to date!! 🙂