Ensuring that you chair an effective meeting will depend on many things that you can control.
Can you make others want to attend your meeting? First ask, which meeting invitations do you choose to accept? Chances are, the ones you reject are often poorly thought out. If the invitation to meet is missing information or doesn’t seem to promise much, then the meeting likely won’t be a good investment of time.
Think about which email meeting invitations you don’t even open, and which ones you disregard and why. That can help you send out more effective invitations to meetings you arrange. The details may differ, but the principles below apply to meetings with clients, your internal staff, or representatives from other companies.
Note this reminder from Zippysig: “Getting an invitation letter right the first time can drastically improve rates of attendance. This not only helps your business appear more professional and organised but can help build valuable business relationships.”
US-based Lucid Meetings recommends 8 key ingredients to make up an effective meeting invitation email. Of these, 4 are required, and 4 are optional.
1. Succinct subject line (required)
SuperOffice reports that the sender name and subject line of your emails are the most important factors in getting them opened and read.
There’s a good chance many of the invitation recipients will have inboxes crowded with emails from suppliers, clients, spouses, or whoever, all demanding attention. They need to see what yours is about instantly. Keep the subject line short (optimal is 8 words), and include the meeting name, date, and what kind of invitation it is. For example, Meeting invite for November 14th: Safety Policy Review.
The idea here is for the recipient to take no time at all to understand what he or she is being invited to and when. Absolute clarity is essential, so avoid confusion by not abbreviating key terms in the subject line.
2. Personal introduction (optional)
This won’t be needed if you regularly see all the invitees and the meeting is routine. But it can be very helpful for those you don’t see often, like a once-a-year client who may need reminding of who you are.
The introduction could be as simple as “I’m looking forward to seeing you to discuss our latest offerings.” Or “As we discussed on the phone last Wednesday, here is the invitation to our new product launch.”
3. Required preparation (optional)
Maybe it’s a meeting with other department heads, where each of you depends on information that the others will bring to the table. Or it could be that they need to be ready with at least an opinion on a suggested future direction.
Here you’re asking not just for their time to meet, but you’re in effect giving them an assignment which will take even more of their time beforehand. If it’s needed, the instructions should be very clear, perhaps right at the top of your message.
4. Meeting date and time (required)
Specify the exact time and date of the meeting in the text of your email, as well as in the subject line. Most recipients will also appreciate knowing a finish time. This will help them schedule other events around your meeting. Express Virtual Meetings recommends that you “schedule enough time for all the important points to be covered, without going overboard. Everyone needs to know the length of the meeting in case it will overlap with a prior engagement.”
Keep in mind that if you want to meet online with participants from other time zones, you should state what the time will be in their location. It’s a good idea to calculate this with a tool like TimeandDate.com, so that you don’t inadvertently invite them to meet with you at 3 a.m.
5. Location: Physical or online (required)
More and more meetings are being held online, saving travel time and cost. Exactly how should someone join an online meeting? Make it clear by including a link, audio instructions or phone numbers, and any system requirements.
If you are asking the invitee to meet at a physical location, give an exact address, with further directions if there could be any confusion.
6. Meeting purpose (required)
Of course, before ever sending a meeting invitation you would already have determined that there is a very good reason to have the meeting. More than anything else, yes, even more than just spending time in your good company, this will be the hook that gets your recipient to accept the invitation. State it clearly in one sentence if possible. A clear benefit to the invitee, or at least some promised progress toward a common goal, may also help.
7. Agenda (optional)
If you want the attendees to prepare in advance (number 3 above), then an agenda will be helpful. It should include the order in which you will discuss key topics, and links to online documents (e.g. in Dropbox or Google Drive) that may be required reading for the group. This is far less cumbersome than trying to send emails with multiple attachments.
8. Invitee list (optional)
Limiting the list of potential attendees is always a good idea, but it can also be helpful for everyone to know who else will attend. This could influence their decision to be there. Include the list of people invited to the meeting at the end of your invitation.
Of course, getting responses back will help you in your planning, especially if you are using a hired venue, or if catering is included. Some meeting software will make it easy for them to accept the invitation, such as by a large clear button to click.
No matter who it is, when you ask someone to stop what they are doing to meet with you, they need to know what’s in it for them. A complete, clear meeting invitation can go a long way to having successful meetings with happy attendees.