Diary Planning – Some Tips

Does this sound familiar to you?

Before every meeting we would discuss diary dates. We would play snap a number of minutes (and sometimes days, if communicating by email), trying to find a date when all us co-leaders would be available for the next meeting.  This was a frustrating game and sometimes it wouldn’t work. Who would take a hit for the team, and miss out? How the heck were we going to make the next meeting happen?

We got clever (so we thought) and started to use Doodle. This made the conversations about dates shorter, but we still then had to then find a building that was available.  Aaargh!

Gradually we improved and started planning two meetings in advance. We had more flexibility in our diaries (they weren’t so crowded already) and more venues were available.  We’d got it sorted, or so we thought.

Then we had a discussion about unconscious bias as we wanted to broaden our attendance base.  With three men present and one woman, it took the woman to point out how we were failing.  Diversity brings perspective.  We hadn’t considered those with evening commitments, or those who planned business trips.  With more notice these groups could plan around our events, and those that are more “last minute” are, of course, unaffected.

Our solution

Plan your meeting dates well in advance!

Initially I was hesitant as I thought it would mean we miss out on opportunities, actually this makes life far easier as it means we have a schedule to work towards with no unpleasant surprises. Speakers even plan their holidays and business trips to coincidence with our meetings; and if there’s someone coming to town at short notice none of this excludes us from putting on extra events.

So, this morning, it having worked so well for 2019, and reduced so much stress, I populated our calendar with all our 2020 agreed dates. And give us a pat on the back too.

Considerations

  1. The first Thursday of the month tends to be Salesforce’s Dutch Circles of Success, we’ve avoided these; it wouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but equally it’s easy to avoid by planning ahead.
  2. Certain dates are best avoided (e.g. around school and bank holidays, World Tour/Basecamp for which we have an extremely provisional date, TrailheaDX and Dreamforce).
  3. As we meet every two months and we want to avoid having a technical meeting in August holiday period, we’re meeting in January, March and every 2 months thereafter.
  4. We’ve varied the day of the week, so those with regular commitments elsewhere can still attend; it means if they can’t attend a particular day of the week they’re not totally excluded. If we were meeting monthly we might have made a different decision here, as meeting at a set cadence (e.g. every 1st Tuesday of the month) also has benefits.
  5. We don’t know the date of next year’s Dreamin events, so inevitably we may have to shift things later.

Bonus: we also now publish our meeting times. Door opening at 18:00, our content starts at 18:30, the formal evening finishes at 20:30 and there’s then time for those that want to network some more. We advertise “Door Close at 21:00” but don’t always keep to it. This gives predictability to those who have long days or loved ones that need their attention at home, and feel awkward about leaving early.

Conclusions

You’ll need to vary our considerations for your local needs, but experience shows this works and reduces our stress: by having the dates in our diaries now, we can plan our holidays around the meetups, rather than get caught unawares later!

By announcing the dates well in advance we are more inclusive – this allows those with commitments (e.g. childcare, business trips) to plan and be able to attend.

And no one complains about lack of notice for meetings any more.

ABOUT THIS BLOG

This (new) blog is devoted to all matter Leadership, and it’s even better if there’s an Ohana-tinge to it. Whether you’re coming at it from a Community Group, Salesforce Saturday or Community Conference perspective, the aim is that we can all learn from each other.

This particular article has been written by Paul Ginsberg (Twitter / LinkedIn) of the Amsterdam User Group. Want to contribute your own article? Just contact us! (proof reading and mentoring available)