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A Simpler Way to Schedule Meetings

New Internet utilities can cut the hassle of scheduling down to a minimum.

Bill Winterberg, 06/10/2010

Advisors' weeks are filled with meetings; meetings with clients, staff, vendors, wholesalers, centers of influence, and allied professionals. Scheduling meetings and coordinating available times among multiple attendees outside your firm is no small task. Dozens of e-mails are often exchanged along with numerous voice-mail messages left in a sisyphean attempt to identify the best meeting time.

Scheduling meetings shouldn't require such a laborious effort, especially considering the time lost to all of the back-and-forth conversations. Fortunately there are new Internet utilities that simplify meeting scheduling. This month's column will highlight the scheduling application Tungle.me and how it can be used to streamline meeting arrangements you make on a daily basis.

Traditional Meeting Scheduling
Scheduling meetings within your office is a fairly effortless process. Most firms implement an internal public calendar for the office, typically in Microsoft Outlook or the firm's CRM application. Existing meetings and events can be viewed on one screen and new meetings can be added during blocks of time with the fewest visible conflicts. Outlook can even propose meeting times when all invited participants have availability in their schedule.

In contrast, think of how you currently schedule meetings with a client and her partner. Perhaps you call your client and invite her to come in to your office. Over the phone you identify a good time to meet, but your client needs to check with her partner first before confirming the appointment.

A few days later your client sends an e-mail telling you the original time doesn't work for her partner, and proposes a new day and time available for the two of them. Unfortunately the proposed day conflicts with your schedule as you'll be out of town visiting other clients. Thus the back-and-forth dialogue continues, wasting precious time, not only for you but also for your client.

A Shared Public Calendar
An internal public calendar is generally effective in most advisor offices as meetings and appointments are visible to everyone on the company's network. But for people outside the network such as clients, vendors, wholesalers, etc., calendar access is not available. Enabling external access to the firm's Outlook or CRM calendar is difficult at best, and carries the potential for a privacy policy violation when items listed on the calendar (which often include client names) are made visible to anyone outside of the firm.

Tungle.me is a free web-based scheduling application that synchronizes to existing calendars and provides an external public calendar viewable in any web browser. While online scheduling applications are not new (I've written before about services like Doodle.com and WhenIsGood.net on FPPad.com), Tungle.me sets itself apart by publishing a simplified version of your calendar on the Internet and showing users when you have time available for a meeting.

Configuring Tungle.me is a quick four-step process. 1) Create an account by entering an email address and selecting a password. 2) After completing email confirmation instructions, personalize your Tungle.me page, including the URL others will use to access your calendar. For example, my page is http://tungle.me/BillWinterberg. 3) Then specify your default availability by using the intuitive paintbrush/eraser icon to customize the available times you want others to see (the default meeting duration is also set in this step).

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