You know very well how it is. We get meeting invitations all the time. No matter the time of the day - they just drop into your mailbox.

Colleagues need to have a "discussion". There's a meeting with an external partner. Or you have a meeting with another team in the company.

Still, so far in my 7 years as a software developer, i'm always surprised by how little people care about how the they structure their invitations. It's almost as they don't care at all.

And let me tell you something.

Assuming you are sending an invitation to your colleagues. The invitation is never about you. Read that again. never about you.

It's always about the people you send the invitation to. So next time you send a useless meeting appointment, with the subject "Discussion of upcoming features" with the body "Team discussion for upcoming features", ask yourself how useful this is to your team. What do they get out of this? Shall they bring pencils to the meeting? Laptops? Shall they expect a refinement? Is the goal of the meeting to have a priority of upcoming features? Is it just a "preparation" for another meeting? It's damn hard to tell. So it's damn hard to prepare for the meeting with this invitation. Also - this invitation is a a very good unconscious statement that you don't care at all about your peers time. Because people who care about others respect their time, and explain why they are needed in the meeting.

Whether you realize it or not, people do not have a "an hour free" each day all the time. So if they are going to attend your meeting, they must put something else aside. And since nowadays being an "effective" organization is important, people must care more about their meeting invitations, so that the purpose of the meeting is clear.

Photo by Mark Fletcher-Brown / Unsplash

Here's how I structure my invitations. It gives the audience a reasonable understanding of the purpose of the meeting and what they shall expect when we leave the room.

In the body of the meeting invitation, answer these 3 points:

  1. Why do we have the meeting?
    Include a short and precise description of the purpose of the meeting
  2. How will we reach our goals?
    A short description of the agenda if you will. I don't think it needs to be very detailed, but at least give an overview of what people can expect. Maybe someone are going to demo something. Mention that.
  3. Goals: better read as when we leave the room, we should have the following
    A clear statement or dot list of what we should have when the meeting is over and we leave the room. Can be a bunch of action points assigned to different people. Or could be a list of prioritized features. Or could simply be to "have an increased understanding". Hint: works equally well for remote meetings.

A bad example

Subject: discussion of upcoming features

Body:
Let's gather and talk about upcoming features

Regards,
Jim

A better example

Subect: discussion of upcoming features

Body:
Why? We need to have the same perspective of what ideas for features we have, and what's most important.
How? I will go through each feature request. We will discuss each briefly (not very detailed). We will then prioritize and pick the top 3 features.
Goal? When we leave the room, we shall have 3 features prioritized in order.

Regards,
Jim


The great irony: people that spend quite a lot of time in meetings tend to spend very little time at writing a good invitation. At least in my experience. Now that's not effective.


So next time, be kind and professional to your peers. At least show them some effort that their time is valuable.