Ways to Make Scheduling Easier
Meeting with other people is a huge part of doing business. Whether you are following up from networking events, meeting with prospects, making time for exploratory chats with partners, or scheduling customers, it all comes down to getting it on the calendar. With everyone being busier than ever it behooves you to make it quick, easy, and convenient. The less time you spend on low-value tasks like back and forth scheduling emails, the more time and energy you have for working in and on your business.
I know personally I've gone through several iterations of different systems (when I say system sometimes I mean automated with software and other times simply procedural systems) and I'm certain I'm not done yet! I wanted to share some of the pro's and con's of what I've learned as well as offer up some tools for you to consider. I'm not affiliated with any of these tools in any way, they are simply ones I've used personally in my business or been on the receiving end (meaning a service provider or potential partner used them).
Delegating to a Virtual Assistant
One way to get out of the loop of scheduling back and forth is to delegate. That means having someone on your team be responsible for communicating and scheduling your appointments. This is a great way to keep that personal touch while getting out of the loop of the calendar matching process. You'll want to find someone who is great at personal interactions and communicating (via phone and email) and can be organized when it comes to managing your calendar. Expect to pay a minimum of $20 and up for someone based in the United States. The more skills and experience someone has, the more you will pay. The best place to find one that is a fit is through personal referrals (ask colleagues!). Other places like AssistU can be a good starting place.
Use an Automated Tool
Tools have come a long way making automated calendars far easier than ever. I have used some of these to streamline scheduling and have been on the receiving end of a number of "book and appointment" requests from others. These are the ones I have found the easiest to use.
TimeTrade is an online appointment scheduler that integrates with existing calendars making it easy to offer different available times for differnet types of appointments (clients vs. prospects for instance). Automated reminders and email confirmation make it easy to schedule and forget about it (yet know the person you're meeting with won't forget!). Mobile scheduling via the iPhone is available. TimeTrade offers single, team, and corporate level pricing, At $49/year for single use it is an affordable way to get out of the scheduling loop.
Schedulicity offers all the power of calendar scheduling plus class scheduling (for groups such as workshops, courses, etc.). Offers many of the features of other calendars plus the ability to add client notes, schedule appointments via facebook, and mobile (iPhone, Android, iPad, Blackberry). Offers marketing support through email templates that you can send to clients as well. Prices for this start at $19/month.
Google Calendar Appointments allow you to schedule appointments with others as well but require that both people use Google Calendar. It is free to use. I have heard some challenges with people where you are crossing time zones. Google offers domr tips on how to simplify that here.
Finding a Time that Works for a Group: A tool like Doodle is free to use and works great to simply poll and then choose the time that works best for the majority of folks. There are premium offerings as well that are quite affordable, advertisement free, and that offer calendar integration. You can schedule 1:1 appointments with this tool as well.
Combination of Assistant + Tools
Nothing replaces personal contact when it comes to building relationships with prospects, partners, and clients. Combining the personal touch of an assistant with the use of an automated tool can help you leverage the best of both worlds.
Scheduling is here to stay... and there are many tools out there to support this task. So what tools do you use to make this easier so you (and the person you are meeting with) have more time for the things that matter and spend less time fumbling with calendars? Please share in the comments.
Paula Gregorowicz, The Intuitive Intelligence™ Coach
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