Are you accepting Outlook meeting requests correctly?

Group of people in a meeting with Laptops. Outlook Meeting Requests

Are you accepting Outlook meeting requests correctly?

Group of people in a meeting with Laptops. Outlook Meeting Requests

A few months ago, when responding to a client query, I stumbled upon a little quirk in the way Outlook meeting requests work that I hadn’t known about.

Most people know that when you organise a meeting using a Microsoft Outlook meeting request, you can track the responses using the ‘Tracking’ feature inside the detail view of the meeting planner as shown below. In this example, I’ve invited Damien to my meeting and I can see he has accepted my invitation. No problems there.

Are you accepting your meeting invites in Outlook correctly?

But, have you ever invited people people to a meeting and see this before?

Are you accepting your meeting invites in Outlook correctly?

I have invited Mary to a meeting and she is a required attendee. According to the ‘Response’ column, she has not yet responded to this invitation.

The only problem is, I know she did accept my meeting request … It’s just that her acceptance isn’t showing up at my end.

So what has happened? Why is it showing ‘None’ in the Response column even though she clicked ‘Accept’?

The answer lies in the way she has accepted the invite, and it’s important to know about this so that you don’t find yourself in a similar situation. Let me explain what’s going on.

How Outlook meeting request and responses really work

When you receive an Outlook meeting request, you are given a few options. You can see them in the image below: ‘Accept’, “Decline”, ‘Tentative’, etc. Notice that each of the main responses has a small drop-down arrow that reveals more detail for that option.

Are you accepting your meeting invites in Outlook correctly?

Let’s assume you are going to Accept a meeting. When you click on ‘Accept’, three options are offered in the drop down menu. Note though, that it works the same way if you choose to Decline or use Tentative. You get the same three options.

They are:

• ‘Edit the Response before Sending’: this allows you to make a comment to the meeting organiser.

• ‘Send the Response Now’: this sends a response back the meeting organiser that you have accepted their invitation.

• ‘Do Not Send a Response’: this option results in no response being sent to the meeting organiser.

If you choose that last option, the Response field in the organiser’s ‘Tracking’ tab does not get updated, even though you’ve accepted the invite. That’s right … it shows ‘None’ in the response column as in the earlier screenshot.

The problem is that many people, myself included until I knew better, tend to choose ‘Do Not Send a Response’ because they don’t want to bother the organiser with another email. We think we’re doing the right thing, whereas in fact we create frustration and ultimately more work for the organiser because they don’t know whether or not we’re going to come to their meeting. It makes the ‘Tracking’ tab in their meeting planner basically useless.

Always send a response

Returning to my example above, if  Mary chooses ‘Send a Response Now’ when accepting my meeting request, I will see her acceptance in the ‘Tracking’ tab, as in the next screenshot.

Are you accepting your meeting invites in Outlook correctly?

The lesson here is pretty simple. When you get an Outlook meeting request from someone, and you intend to go, or even decline, always choose ‘Send a Response Now’ (or ‘Edit the Response before Sending’ if you need to make a comment) when responding to the meeting organiser. Everyone will be happy, I promise.

Geoff Prior
Workload and Email Productivity Trainer/Coach

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10 Comments
  • Wally O’Carroll
    Posted at 05:07h, 15 December Reply

    Thanks for the “lesson”! Like you I have been using the third option but will cease dong that forthwith! May you and the family have a happy and peaceful Xmas / New Year. We must try and catch up in the New Year!
    Cheers
    Wally

    • Geoff Prior
      Posted at 06:07h, 15 December Reply

      Thanks Wally….It is a confusing way for Outlook to have set this up. It makes sense when you step it out I guess, but it could be improved I’d say. But to your more important point….yes, we will catch up in the new year for sure. I will get in touch in mid January and see how we go. Happy Christmas to you and your family also. Cheers.

  • Leanne Perryman
    Posted at 10:14h, 17 December Reply

    It’s like accepting an invitation to dinner – you wouldn’t just put it in your calendar without going back to the person who invited you and saying, Yes, I’d love to come!

    • Geoff Prior
      Posted at 11:19h, 17 December Reply

      Indeed. Nice analogy Leanne….

    • Stephen Bathgate
      Posted at 15:40h, 13 January Reply

      The big difference is when an invite is sent to A LOT of people you do not want to get an email from every single person.

      • Geoff Prior
        Posted at 16:09h, 13 January Reply

        Yes, I get that Stephen. Unfortunately though, it does mean you cannot track who is coming and who is not. If that is not important to you, then it doesn’t matter too much. When sending to a LOT of people, the organiser often wants to know who is coming and who is not. So unless you send a response, they have no way of knowing. Microsoft are aware of this and are working on it I understand, though at this stage, there is no date for when it might be fixed.

  • Doreen Prendergast
    Posted at 00:23h, 12 September Reply

    now that all attendees have accepted properly they are “forwarding” the invite back and forth to make comments or ask questions to each other. Shouldn’t they be using the “respond” drop down and choose “reply all”. Doesn’t that send the email to everyone and not just a “forward”. When I see a forward email invite I don’t necessarily assume there is a note to read. Most importantly, if I am not on the actual invite (I only see because the calendar responses for 2 of my bosses come to my email). If it is someone else’s calendar that I do NOT keep, and they forwarded with a comment, I would not receive the response via email correct? I think I am right asking them to use the “reply all” under the respond box instead of “forwarding” seeing how I do not have access to the all attendees calendars. Please confirm and advise.

    • Geoff Prior
      Posted at 08:30h, 12 September Reply

      Thanks Doreen… you are spot on. People should be using the “Respond>Reply or Reply All” feature to send messages back and forth to attendees. (or the “Contact Attendees” if you are the meeting organiser). When you forward a meeting invite, the other attendees of the meeting do not know that someone else has been invited, so it really should not be used anyway. If someone forwards you the Meeting Invite with a comment…you will see the comment, however it will be forwarded as a meeting invite. You can still reply to this (as opposed to responding by Accepting/Declining), however, it is not the way this feature should be used, so you are right in advising them to use the Reply/Reply All. Appreciate the question… I’ve not seen people do that, but clearly that’s a habit inside your organisation. A poor one though…

    • Geoff Prior
      Posted at 09:10h, 12 September Reply

      …and just as an update Doreen….the Meeting Organiser can prevent a Meeting Request being forwarded to others. This option is under the “Response Options”. They can untick the Ällow Forwarding” option. It may depend on the version of Outlook you are using. I’m using Outlook 365.

  • Rose Beaudry
    Posted at 06:40h, 16 October Reply

    we are having an issue with the accept/decline response email being stuck in the outbox for no apparent reason. Any ideas on a fix for this?

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