You have been put in charge of scheduling an important meeting and time management is a challenge. There are many participants and some of them are not located within your company and are in different time zones.

Let us suppose you do not have access to everyone’s calendars and if you did, could you still set something up in a matter of a few minutes?

If you have a great solution, share it in the comments below and help others become more productive and efficient with their time.

It can be frustrating when you feel unproductive because of a simple task. The good news is there are a number of online tools to help us when feel stuck.

Before you start sending out invitations, organize some of the essential information about your event or meeting:

  • Who should be invited
  • Who must be there
  • Identify two or three alternatives for dates and times
  • How is the meeting going to be held
    • Face to face
    • Teleconference
    • Webinar
  • Have an agenda

If you know who has to be in the meeting, it sets the priority for selecting the time and date.

Why is it important to identify several meeting time and day options? Some of the tools below let you develop a poll and send it to the participants; expediting the planning and scheduling processes.

The venue of the meeting can simply or complicate the scheduling process. Participants who have to travel to a meeting may require more advance notice to free up larger blocks of time in their calendars.

When you provide an agenda it lets a participant understand why they need to be in the meeting and increases their willingness to be flexible with their schedule.

If you call everyone and ask them what times are best for them, you will be overwhelmed with information and experience a coordination nightmare.

Some of the scheduling resources below are internet or web based, others may require desktop software.

  1. TimeBridge – Select options for a meeting and let the software coordinate everyone’s calendars. Free trial period to experience premium features. Basic plan is free.
  2. Evite – Known as a social planning website offering templates for almost any occasion. Develop your list of participants and invite them to your event. Responses include attending/not attending/maybe/not yet replied and are viewable to everyone.
  3. MeetingWizard – Web based system that sends out invitations with options for meeting times and summarizes the responses. Basic free service.
  4. Microsoft Outlook – Calendar system that sends a request for a single event.  Users opt to share their calendars with one another or you can send an invitation to another user with MS Outlook.
  5. Lotus Notes – Select participants and view optimal times for scheduling a meeting based on if it is required or optional for their attendance.
  6. Doodle – Connect your Microsoft Outlook, Google, Lotus Notes and other calendars and create a poll that lets others vote on what works best with their calendar. Apps available for the iPhone. Premium service is $28/year, branded service available for extra.
  7. Survey Monkey – Do a simple survey or poll for free or for less than $20/month, set up a survey with enhanced features.
  8. Office Tracker – A more robust solution for office, facility and educational scheduling. Free trial available.
  9. Tungle – Syncs with your calendar. People can schedule off your calendar or you can send invitations to others proposing multiple times. iPhone and Blackberry applications available. Free version available.
  10. Socializr – The rival to Evite. Integrates into other social media tools to let you promote more broadly. Used heavily with BlackBerry users. Free version.
  11. Diarized – Arranges your meeting for free. Select the dates, invite the attendees and receive a summary of the results.
  12. Setster – An appointment setting service designed to handle the easy to more complicated scheduling tasks. Choose the plan right for you – free to enterprise options. Try it out for 15 days on them.
  13. Google Calendar – Add the names of the meeting guests to your calendar and view their calendar. Find an available time, and send out invitations. Free application.
  14. Meeting Room Manager – Meeting and conference room web based software that integrates with Microsoft Outlook. Customizable. Free trial period.
  15. Need to Meet – Schedule meetings in two steps. Registration is not required. Free service.
  16. ScheduleOnce – Free personal edition integrates with Google Calendar or Gmail. Professional version costs $5 per month. Download Firefox version for free.
  17. agreeAdate – A free version lets you store 20 addresses although you can invite more people to your event or meeting. Additional features are available starting at $3.99/month.
  18. When is Good – Define when you have free time and let others confirm they can meet at the same time. Select a free basic to paid branded account.
  19. Which Date Works – Four easy steps to sending out invitations to an event. View yes/no/maybe to the dates you propose from everyone who you have invited by email.
  20. GoToMeeting – Schedule and invite people to a meeting on the web. Desktop viewing between participants. Free 30 day trial.

You may find that some of these products require everyone to be on the same platform to work effectively so check the details at their website.

For example, when I sent a client an invitation for a meeting, they received the email but the calendar entry was not recorded. I sent the invitation by Microsoft Outlook, they are using Lotus Notes. Interestingly, when they sent me an invitation from their system, it recorded the meeting on my calendar without a hiccup.

This list is not comprehensive – feel free to suggest your favorite tool and let us know if there is a scheduling product you prefer over another one.