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10 Tips For Improving Your Appointment Setting Skills

10 Tips For Improving Your Appointment Setting Skills
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    No matter what business you’re in, the odds are that you spend at least some time in appointments. Your appointments may be big group meetings, one-on-ones, or even job interviews. You may even be skipping the face-to-face aspect of meeting and be taking conference calls or using Skype. No matter what type of meeting you’ve scheduled, though, these tips can help you improve your appointment setting skills.

    1. Set agendas ahead of time. Knowing what you plan to accomplish in a meeting can help you decide how long to plan to stay at that appointment — assuming you can keep to your agenda. It can be hard to get other people to stay on track, but no one really wants to spend all day in a single appointment. Furthermore, completing an agreed upon agenda is really the only way to be sure when your meeting is over.
    2. Offer time and date options for appointments. Rather than going through a lengthy back and forth, either on the phone or via email, pick two or three appointment times that work for you and present them to the other half of your appointment. If you’re dealing with a larger group, it’s almost guaranteed that at least one option won’t work for someone, and having multiple options is a much faster way to reach consensus.
    3. Avoid fancy software applications. While there is some very snazzy appointment setting software out there, try to avoid using anything out of the ordinary. The exception to this rule is parties or very large meetings. In general, using these applications take more time than they’re worth — there’s a learning curve for new users, and having to visit a site to respond can take double the time of replying to an email. However, when you’re trying to coordinate large groups of people, using an application can provide a central location rather than sending out huge batches of emails.
    4. Make sure you really need a meeting. Plenty of appointments are set for simple things like handing over a document for approval. Unless that document is short enough to be completely examined during the meeting, it might be more worthwhile to drop off the document and come back later to answer questions and handle the approval process. Before actually setting your appointment, think about whether the matter could be handled in a faster way.
    5. Minimize travel time. One of the reasons that appointments eat up so much time in our calendars is the necessity of travel. We have to travel to clients’ offices, coffee shops or wherever the heck we’re meeting. We can minimize that commitment by suggesting that we meet at our own locations, meet halfway, or skip meeting in person altogether. Options like telephone calls or video conferencing can often handle all the requirements of that appointment you were going to drive across town for.
    6. Schedule time for both preparation and debriefing. When you set your appointment, think about what you might need to do to prepare for it — review a report, prepare a presentation or iron your shirt — and schedule time for each of those activities before your actual appointment. It’s also worthwhile to schedule a fifteen-minute prep session just before your appointment for any last minute details. Same goes for afterwards: you may have certain follow-up tasks to handle after your meeting. Scheduling at least a few minutes after an appointment guarantees that you’ll have time to make sure your notes are complete and any sort of further action at least makes it on to your calendar (if you can’t do it then).
    7. Separate personal and business appointments. Many of us try to load all of our out-of-the-office appointments into one day. Ignoring the problem of what happens if just one runs late, you’ve got the issue of trying to switch gears between the presentation you just gave to a client and the shot the doctor’s waiting to give you. That sort of mental switch up can only make it harder to handle your later appointments. Try to schedule your personal and business appointments on different days.
    8. Keep your appointment schedulers up to date. If you aren’t the only person scheduling your appointments, it’s vital to keep the others in the loop. Otherwise, your significant other might be expecting you at a family dinner at the same time you’re finishing up a major project. I like shared calendars, such as Google Calendar for that very reason, but there are ways to share just about every type of calendar, if you’re reliant on your own system. Appointment schedulers can include your manager, your significant other, an administrative assistant (yours or the departments) and a whole host of other people.
    9. Limit invitees. You may not need the whole company present for a progress report. Instead, decide who actually needs to be in on your appointment — you can always send out a mass email later on if people feel left out. I’ve been in situations before where higher ups felt left out if you didn’t bring them in on every single appointment you were setting up. The best bet seems to be presenting the meeting as something that wouldn’t be a valuable use of their time.
    10. Confirm everything! Confirm when and where the meeting is, what the agenda covers, even how to get there. All you really need is a brief email a day or two before the appointment that outlines the appointment and ask for a simple yes in response if everything is correct.

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    Last Updated on August 20, 2019

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Becoming Self-Taught (The How-To Guide)

    Most of the skills I use to make a living are skills I’ve learned on my own: Web design, desktop publishing, marketing, personal productivity skills, even teaching! And most of what I know about science, politics, computers, art, guitar-playing, world history, writing, and a dozen other topics, I’ve picked up outside of any formal education.

    This is not to toot my own horn at all; if you stop to think about it, much of what you know how to do you’ve picked up on your own. But we rarely think about the process of becoming self-taught. This is too bad, because often, we shy away from things we don’t know how to do without stopping to think about how we might learn it — in many cases, fairly easily.

    The way you approach the world around you dictates to a great degree whether you will find learning something new easy or hard. Learning comes easily to people who have developed:

    Curiosity

    Being curious means you look forward to learning new things and are troubled by gaps in your understanding of the world. New words and ideas are received as challenges and the work of understanding them is embraced.

    People who lack curiosity see learning new things as a chore — or worse, as beyond their capacities.

    Patience

    Depending on the complexity of a topic, learning something new can take a long time. And it’s bound to be frustrating as you grapple with new terminologies, new models, and apparently irrelevant information.

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    When you are learning something by yourself, there is nobody to control the flow of information, to make sure you move from basic knowledge to intermediate and finally advanced concepts.

    Patience with your topic, and more importantly with yourself is crucial — there’s no field of knowledge that someone in the world hasn’t managed to learn, starting from exactly where you are.

    A Feeling for Connectedness

    This is the hardest talent to cultivate, and is where most people flounder when approaching a new topic.

    A new body of knowledge is always easiest to learn if you can figure out the way it connects to what you already know. For years, I struggled with calculus in college until one day, my chemistry professor demonstrated how to do half-life calculations using integrals. From then on, calculus came much easier, because I had made a connection between a concept I understood well (the chemistry of half-lifes) and a field I had always struggled in (higher maths).

    The more you look for and pay attention to the connections between different fields, the more readily your mind will be able to latch onto new concepts.

    With a learning attitude in place, working your way into a new topic is simply a matter of research, practice, networking, and scheduling:

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    1. Research

    Of course, the most important step in learning something new is actually finding out stuff about it. I tend to go through three distinct phases when I’m teaching myself a new topic:

    Learning the Basics

    Start as all things start today: Google it! Somehow people managed to learn before Google ( I learned HTML when Altavista was the best we got!) but nowadays a well-formed search on Google will get you a wealth of information on any topic in seconds.

    Surfing Wikipedia articles is a great way to get a basic grounding in a new field, too — and usually the Wikipedia entry for your search term will be on the first page of your Google search.

    What I look for is basic information and then the work of experts — blogs by researchers in a field, forums about a topic, organizational websites, magazines. I subscribe to a bunch of RSS feeds to keep up with new material as it’s posted, I print out articles to read in-depth later, and I look for the names of top authors or top books in the field.

    Hitting the Books

    Once I have a good outline of a field of knowledge, I hit the library. I look up the key names and titles I came across online, and then scan the shelves around those titles for other books that look interesting.

    Then, I go to the children’s section of the library and look up the same call numbers — a good overview for teens is probably going to be clearer, more concise, and more geared towards learning than many adult books.

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    Long-Term Reference

    While I’m reading my stack of books from the library, I start keeping my eyes out for books I will want to give a permanent place on my shelves. I check online and brick-and-mortar bookstores, but also search thrift stores, used bookstores, library book sales, garage sales, wherever I happen to find myself in the presence of books.

    My goal is a collection of reference manuals and top books that I will come back to either to answer thorny questions or to refresh my knowledge as I put new skills into practice. And to do this cheaply and quickly.

    2. Practice

    Putting new knowledges into practice helps us develop better understandings now and remember more later. Although a lot of books offer exercises and self-tests, I prefer to jump right in and build something: a website, an essay, a desk, whatever.

    A great way to put any new body of knowledge into action is to start a blog on it — put it out there for the world to see and comment on.

    Just don’t lock your learning up in your head where nobody ever sees how much you know about something, and you never see how much you still don’t know.

    3. Network

    One of the most powerful sources of knowledge and understanding in my life have been the social networks I have become embedded in over the years — the websites I write on, the LISTSERV I belong to, the people I talk with and present alongside at conferences, my colleagues in the department where I studied and the department where I now teach, and so on.

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    These networks are crucial to extending my knowledge in areas I am already involved, and for referring me to contacts in areas where I have no prior experience. Joining an email list, emailing someone working in the field, asking colleagues for recommendations, all are useful ways of getting a foothold in a new field.

    Networking also allows you to test your newly-acquired knowledge against others’ understandings, giving you a chance to grow and further develop.

    4. Schedule

    For anything more complex than a simple overview, it pays to schedule time to commit to learning. Having the books on the shelf, the top websites bookmarked, and a string of contacts does no good if you don’t give yourself time to focus on reading, digesting, and implementing your knowledge.

    Give yourself a deadline, even if there is no externally imposed time limit, and work out a schedule to reach that deadline.

    Final Thoughts

    In a sense, even formal education is a form of self-guided learning — in the end, a teacher can only suggest and encourage a path to learning, at best cutting out some of the work of finding reliable sources to learn from.

    If you’re already working, or have a range of interests beside the purely academic, formal instruction may be too inconvenient or too expensive to undertake. That doesn’t mean you have to set aside the possibility of learning, though; history is full of self-taught successes.

    At its best, even a formal education is meant to prepare you for a life of self-guided learning; with the power of the Internet and the mass media at our disposal, there’s really no reason not to follow your muse wherever it may lead.

    More About Self-Learning

    Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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