Anatomy of a well-communicated meeting

Earlier this week on RE:Office 365 we discussed etiquette when it comes to meetings. A lot of great points were raised and I think most people generally come to the same consensus that meetings should be better. So why is it that people still get their feathers ruffled around organising and having meetings.

I thought it quite ironic that almost immediately after the live stream ended I was speaking with a friend that works at a large Australian firm, and mentioned the discussion I’d just been a part of. They were staying at home for the day as they were unwell and had logged into their email to cancel any meetings for the day. One of them was a workshop with a number of people, and within a few minutes of the cancellation the organiser fired back quite tersely about how important this workshop was, how it was core to my friend’s job, how difficult it was to organise, etc. My friend was quite flustered with this brittle response.

I asked the question: “did you give a reason for your cancellation, or just cancel without any message?”. They indicated the latter. I didn’t need to say anything further on this as they immediately followed up with “I guess I should have explained why”.

The organiser of the meeting found out from my friend’s manager later that morning and sent an email wishing them a speedy recovery. This was a positive action to take from someone who realised that they may have overreacted in the tone of the email and was attempting to make amends. However, time and energy would have been saved if my friend had simply let the organiser know that they were unwell in the first place.

I recently wrote an article about “Bob” and his boss, where Bob cancelled the meeting with a few minutes to spare which caused his boss to overreact with a terse email. Bob could have done better by cancelling the meeting earlier – this would have avoided his boss being a dick and responding with how important he was and how unacceptable the meeting cancellation was.

On The Office 365 Good Etiquette Guide I have written a number of smaller articles around meeting etiquette that are really common sense, but for the sake of the exercise let’s piece together what I believe would be a well-communicated meeting that everyone will benefit from.

For the meeting organiser:

For the meeting participants:

The reality is that if the organiser spends a minute or two extra before sending a meeting invite: they will have a better a response.

If participants write a line or two when declining or cancelling this will save considerable frustration.

The technology has been here for a while:

If you don’t have the technology, get it. A comparatively small investment will result in an increased speed of decision making and collaboration, improve employee satisfaction by removing meeting frustrations.

The people aspect however costs even less to improve. Think about your fellow human being as a person, not a resource or obstruction. This person has their own job and life with their own challenges and pressures. We don’t know what is going on at all times with each other, and in reality, it’s not entirely our business. However, it is important to be considerate. So, spend a few extra seconds or minutes before, during and after meetings – it will pay off handsomely in the long run.

Why I don’t use Outlook on my Android phone

Based on my previous articles about my journey from Windows Phone to Outlook, you would think that I use every Microsoft app available on my Android device.

This assumption is largely correct as I use the Arrow app launcher, OneDrive for photo uploads, Yammer for social engagement, Skype for Business for conferences, and plenty of others.

But the one app I don’t use it Outlook. I did use it on my first Android phone and cursed something that I thought was an Android limitation – but it turns out it is an Outlook on Android limitation, and for me that is a showstopper:

The ability to create new and modify existing contacts!

Yep, that is a feature I simply cannot live without. At first it was infuriating as I was relatively new to Android, but as I was using the Gmail app for my personal email experience (which is also hosted on Office 365) I found that the issue was actually Outlook. It was quite frustrating to figure out – I would create or modify a contact on my phone in the Outlook app, only to find seconds later it wasn’t there!!!

As a person who is constantly meeting new people I need the ability to save contact details, and they come from a variety of sources: a business card handed to me, an email signature, told verbally, my incoming call log, etc. I don’t want to have to wait until I’m back in front of my Outlook client on my Surface Pro 4 to record their details, or have to use the Outlook on the web interface – I want to do it then and there. And I don’t think I’m being unreasonable.

In fact if you look at the UserVoice page you’ll see that this specific feature has over 20,000 votes and was been flagged as “Under Review” back in July 2015.

We are left to wonder why this hasn’t been fixed yet?

So what do I use instead of Outlook?

I did use the Gmail app for my personal Office 365 email and it was acceptable, but I had a few sync issues there so definitely wouldn’t use it for work purposes.

Instead, a friend of mine who worked with me at Paradyne, Ian Culliver, told me about an app that he uses instead of Outlook. He had switched from Windows Phone to Android years ago and so had a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. When griping about the Outlook contact experience he told me that he uses an app called Nine Mail. It is available for a 2 week trial, and after that costs US$9.99. This is fairly steep compared to the free Outlook app, but then again it’s the same cost as lunch.

Two things about this app caught my attention. The first was the ability to add & modify contacts!

The second was the ability to set VIPs, which allows me to disable all email notifications (something I love to do) and only receive them from important people such as my wife and specific business contacts. (What’s surprising is that the Microsoft Band v1 handled VIP email notifications over 2 years ago!)

These two are enough for me to stay on Nine Mail for a while.

I still have the Outlook app installed and synchronising in the background as the Skype for Business client requires it to get calendar information. All notifications are turned off however, and the Outlook app isn’t even on my main screen.

As you can see on the screenshot of my phone, the Nine app is in the bottom right corner with the Nine calendar widget featuring prominently.

The Outlook app is buried inside the “Microsoft Apps” folder.







But what about the rest of the features? And what do I recommend to customers?

Good question – do I practice what I preach? Do I tell customers to use what I use?

Yes and no. I tell them what I use, but then I tell them to use the supported app being Outlook. I tell them to use the app that has the most features for the enterprise, including integration with features such as Office 365 Groups. Things like Focused Inbox are an important feature for those who work in organisations that still receive large volumes of emails each day.

Also, the Outlook app does introduce new features at an amazing rate – although I’m still surprised saving contacts is still not fixed.

On a personal level, I don’t use those features as I’m in a business of one and for me contact management is more important than group collaboration.

Will I go back to using Outlook? Probably yes, at least for my work persona. But not until this contact problem is fixed, and probably not until VIPs email notifications is introduced.