Use a Good Meeting Invitation Template

Have you ever been to a really good meeting? The kind of meeting where you gain a sense of direction and unity? Perhaps a few, but if your experience is anywhere like mine most meetings you visited have felt like a waste of everybodys’ time. I’ve noticed that organizers who use a good meeting invitation template have better meetings. I’ve decided to share my meeting invitation template here. Scroll down or jump directly to six headlines that you should include in the invitation.

Some Common Problems with Meetings

[bibshow]
Perhaps a third of the time we spend in meetings is pure waste. [bibcite key=”citeulike:12936606″] Participating in meetings is stressful. The more meetings we go to and the longer they are the more stressed and tired we become. [bibcite key=”citeulike:12936604″] It is not just the meetings as such that can be problematic. Meetings are often important points of synchronization and decision-making and the more busy your team is with meetings the harder it is to schedule new meetings. This leads to important work having to be postponed. [bibcite key=”citeulike:12936607″] On top of that, most meetings are spent seated and that isn’t very healthy.

Why Have That Meeting?

Tired of working alone? Hold a meeting.

Source: 37signals

Tired of working alone? Hold a meeting. I don’t know where this image originated or who holds the copyright. I found it here and they found it somewhere else.

If meetings are stressful, unhealthy and time wasters then what should we do? Should we not have meetings? Yes, the first thing to do is to avoid unnecessary meetings. Start by asking yourself “why”. Why do you want to organize this meeting? What goal is it that you hope to achieve by organizing the meeting? What is it that people will think, feel and do differently because they were in the meeting? Now turn all this around and ask yourself “why” again. Why would the other people, the ones you are inviting, want to be in the meeting?

The Meeting Process

The meeting process starts long before the meeting starts and end long after the meeting ends. (Unless it is an emergency meeting.) All those expectations, all those previous experiences and everything else that we bring to the meeting. All that is at least as important as the meeting itself if you are to reach your goal with the meeting. But let’s not get to philosophical here. Let’s move straight to the meat of the matter. Let’s move to the meeting invitation template.

My Meeting Invitation Template

I promised to share my meeting invitation template. This isn’t based on any deep science. It is just based on some template I saw somewhere. Then I used that, added and removed with experience until I came up with the current version that you see here. So let’s start with the headings.

  • When, how long and where.
  • Practical details.
  • Headline.

What I’ve covered so far is covered automatically if you use the meeting invitation template included with your calendar software. If you are writing a paper invitation, you’ll have to write them separately.

Is your electronic calendar full of meetings your don't really like? Rude Cactus calendar is. Would he have been better off if everyone used a good meeting invitation template?

Source: Rude Cactus | CC BY NC SA 2.0

Is your electronic calendar full of meetings your don’t really like? Rude Cactus calendar is. Would he have been better off if everyone used a good meeting invitation template? Used under CC BY NC SA 2.0.

calendar

Source: Chris Cactus

Meeting invitation headlines

Back to the important stuff. Below are the more interesting headlines that you should consider. Oh, please don’t put this in an attachment. Put it in the body (orange frame in the nearby image) of the message so that it is immediately visible when the invitee opens the invitation.

  • Background
  • Goal
  • Objective
  • Agenda
  • Participants
  • Preparations

Go ahead and copy these headlines into your invitation. Let’s examine each of these headlines and add more detail to your invitation.

Background

In the background section, you should state simply what has led up to this meeting. What are the events or the process steps that are the trigger for this meeting.

Goal

What is your goal with this meeting? What is it that you want to achieve by holding this meeting.

Objective

Goals should be SMART.

Source: profaniti | CC BY SA 2.0

Goals should be SMART. By profaniti on Flickr. (Cropped) Used under CC BY SA 2.0.

The objective of the meeting is often forgotten. You can think of this as the Definition of Done for the meeting. Or, you can think of this as a chance to make your goal SMART and concrete.

Agenda

There is a lot to say about writing an agenda and I am not going to say it here. But do remember that like everything else, a meeting has a beginning, a main part and an ending. Use the beginning to meet & greet and to align expectations. Does everyone agree with the objective of the meeting? Does everyone agree with the agenda? Use the ending to check that the objective has been reached. Make sure to end the meeting as soon as the objective has been achieved. There is no obligation to use all the allocated time for the meeting.

Participants

If you used an electronic invite, all the participants will already have a list of the names of the other participants. So what is the purpose of this section? The purpose is two-fold. On one hand, you want to let everyone else know who the other participants are and why they are going to come to the meeting. On the other hand, you want to let everyone know why they are needed and wanted in the meeting. If you cannot formulate for yourself why a particular person should be in the meeting you probably should steal from their valuable time by inviting him or her to the meeting.

Preparations

Have you ever been to a meeting where everyone is kind of airlifted into the meeting? Not pretty? So please state in your invitation how you expect people to prepare. And follow-up, before the meeting check with each invitee so that they are prepared. If they’re not able to prepare on time, ask them if the meeting should be postponed?

Conclusion

I have shared with you my meeting invitation template in its current state. Using a template not only makes your meeting more attractive. It will also force you to prepare a better meeting. And a well prepared meeting is so much more likely to be successful.

References

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About the Featured Image

The featured image is of President Barack Obama holding a meeting in the White House gardens. It is taken from Wikimedia Commons and is used as Public Domain.

Image sources

  • Hold a meeting!: 37signals
  • gmail calendar appointment: Rude Cactus | CC BY NC SA 2.0
  • calendar: Chris Cactus
  • smart goals cropped: profaniti | CC BY SA 2.0
  • President Barack Obama and his senior advisors meeting in the Rose Garden: Pete Souza (White House) via Wikimedia Commons | PD

Image sources

  • Hold a meeting!: 37signals
  • gmail calendar appointment: Rude Cactus | CC BY NC SA 2.0
  • calendar: Chris Cactus
  • smart goals cropped: profaniti | CC BY SA 2.0
  • President Barack Obama and his senior advisors meeting in the Rose Garden: Pete Souza (White House) via Wikimedia Commons | PD

About Greger Wikstrand

Greger Wikstrand, Ph.D. M.Sc. is a TOGAF 9 certified enterprise architect with an interest in e-heatlh, m-health and all things agile as well as processes, methods and tools. Greger Wikstrand works as a consultant at Capgemini where he alternates between enterprise agile coaching, problem solving and designing large scale e-health services

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