An Attempt to Make Scheduling Meetings Easier
According to message center notification MC375740 (updated Jun 21, 2022, Microsoft 365 roadmap item 93239), the deployment of Outlook’s Booking with Me feature is rolling out to targeted release tenants. The deployment to standard release tenants will start soon and be complete in mid-August. Any user with an Exchange Online license has access to Bookings with Me unless the organization disables the feature for the entire tenant or individual users.
Despite its association with Outlook, Booking with Me is a separate app that uses Exchange Web Services (EWS) API calls to interact with user calendars. The idea behind the app is to allow internal and external people to request time in the calendars of other users through their Booking with Me page. The app is separate to the Microsoft Bookings app, with the basic differentiation between the target audiences: personal (manage meetings in my mailbox) and group (manage appointments for a group of people, usually for a business purpose).
Using Booking for Me
If your account isn’t blocked, a Create bookings page link appears in your OWA calendar (Figure 1). A similar link is not available in Outlook for Windows or Mac. After creating a bookings page, the link changes to Edit bookings page.
Clicking the link brings up a draft bookings page for you to populate with meeting type. A meeting type defines the characteristics of a meeting you’re willing to accept, including:
- Public or private: Anyone with the link to your bookings page can select from the defined public meeting types to create a meeting in your calendar. Only those with the link to a specific private meeting event can create those events. You might have a private meeting type that can be scheduled immediately at any time by selected co-workers and a public meeting type for everyone else.
- When it can happen: By default, you use the working hours defined for your calendar, but you can amend the available hours. For instance, you might decide to reserve slots between 10 AM and 11 AM each morning for meetings.
- How long a meeting will be: The default is 30 minutes. It can be as short as 10 minutes
- Where the meeting will be: The default is to create online Teams meetings., but you can define a location such as your office or a conference room.
- Create buffer times before and after meetings so that you don’t end up with back-to-back events. The buffer time is defined in minutes.
- How long in advance someone can schedule a meeting. The default is one hour, meaning that someone can look for a time slot in your calendar an hour ahead of the current time. As many people like to review meetings to decide if they will accept them or reschedule as necessary, a longer lead time might be better.
Figure 2 shows how to populate the settings for a new meeting type.
Each meeting type has a separate link used to make bookings. You don’t have to define all the meeting types immediately as you can add more over time. Just one is needed to create your booking page, which can take ten or so minutes for the service to set up.
Sharing Meeting Types
When the bookings page is ready, you can share its link with other people. The Share option generates a link like Book time with Sean Landy, which expands to a link to the BookWithMe service running on Outlook.com:
The important point to understand is that anyone with a meeting link (public or private) can book a meeting with you, even if they don’t have a Microsoft account.
You can share the link to your bookings page by copying it to include in a document, email, or Teams message, or add it to your email autosignature. OWA greyed out the option to add the booking link automatically in the edit email signature dialog. This was probably because I defined two public meeting types and OWA couldn’t choose which of the links to the meeting types to insert. The problem is easily solved by pasting the link to the bookings page into your email signature.
To book a meeting, use the link to someone’s bookings page or the link to a private meeting time that’s been shared with you. Booking with Me displays the page. You can then select the meeting type from the set displayed on the page and then choose a meeting time (Figure 3).
When someone schedules a meeting through Booking with me, both the requester and the person who hosts the meeting (the meeting owner) receive email confirmation. The meeting owner receives email to tell them that someone set up a meeting through their bookings page. The requester receives a regular meeting invitation. If the meeting is online, the invitation includes any custom Teams meeting information defined by the organization. To make this happen, the Bookings service impersonates the meeting owner and creates a meeting in their calendar with the person who requests the meeting. The calendar event is like any other event and can be updated or cancelled as necessary. This includes changes made by the requestor, who can use a link in the meeting invitation to access meeting details to reschedule or cancel the event.
Likely to be a Popular Tool
Booking with me is a good example of how many can deploy its software toolkit to combine different elements drawn from across Microsoft 365 to create a new solution that people can use without installing any additional software. Users might need a little help to understand how to create good meeting types, but once people get the hang of it, I think Booking with me will be popular. Let’s face it: few people enjoy organizing meetings, and if Booking with me helps to reduce the pain a little, it will deliver value.
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