Using WhenIsGood to schedule meetings

A small, wrinkled paper calendar

WhenIsGood is a tool that allows you to survey people to determine optimal times for a meeting. Although there’s a free option, I find the $20/year premium plan 100% worth it. I don’t want to call these “best practices”, but these are my practices for using WhenIsGood to schedule a meeting.

General use

  • Create an account. This makes it way easier to get to your current and past polls.
  • Pay for premium. A premium account gives you polls with three tiers of availability. This allows respondents to differentiate between “this time is perfect” and “I can make this time work if I have to.”

Poll setup

  • Check the “Use timezones” box. Your open source project spans timezones (and if it doesn’t, why not?!). Let people set their own timezone so they don’t have to keep converting as they fill in their availability. You can use GMT as the default time zone or your local time.
  • Set the grid to 30 minutes. Even if you’re scheduling a one-hour meeting, it doesn’t necessarily start at the top of the hour. Give your respondents the flexibility to accurately reflect their availability. Unless the meeting is 15 minutes, the 15-minute grid is probably too fine-grained.
  • Paint hours that you can’t attend. Unless the meeting absolutely cannot happen with you, go ahead and add all of the reasonable hours to your grid. You will then submit your own availability as any other respondent.
  • This includes evenings and weekends. Some of your contributors can join during their working hours. Others can’t. If you don’t offer evenings and weekends as options in the poll, you’ll never know if the best time falls there.
  • Start the poll well in advance. You’ll probably need to chase people down a few times to get replies from all of the people you want. Give yourself time to do that.
  • Highlight the hours that you know have a good overlap. WhenIsGood allows you to highlight time within the grid. If you know there are times that have a good overlap, highlight those. Otherwise, highlight the whole thing.

Recurring meeting setup

If you’re trying to schedule a recurring meeting, there are a few extra things to do.

  • Hide the dates. WhenIsGood has a “Hide dates” check box. Check it. Don’t let the presence of dates cause confusion.
  • Make the grid one week long. People might have conflicts that don’t occur every week. For example, they may have a bi-weekly meeting on Tuesday mornings or monthly allergy shots on Friday afternoons. You may be tempted to have you grid span multiple weeks. In general, I suggest avoidnig this. The recurring conflicts may not be as simple as they look. Is that conflict on the first Monday of the month or every four Mondays? Those will not always be the same. You can’t reflect that in a poll like this, so it’s less confusing to just let the respondents tell you how they interpret their availability.

Sharing the poll

  • Remind respondents about time zones. Make sure you explicitly mention that the poll supports time zones (because you checked that box above) and what you set the default to be.
  • Remind respondents about the multi-tier availability. Respondents may not realize they can use the tiered responses. Let them know. Your life will be a lot easier if they use it.

Picking a time

The hard part is picking a time once you have the responses. If you’re lucky, there are times where everyone is available. If not…

  • Hover over names. Hovering over the link to a response shows you that person’s response. This lets you find if there’s someone whose availability is so narrow that you may have no choice but to exclude them. It also shows which times are best and which are “if I have to”.
  • Ask monochrome responses to resubmit. If someone’s responses are all the same color, there’s a good chance they didn’t make use of the tiered availability. Ask them to edit or resubmit so that you can get a better sense of what works for them.
  • Hover over times. The grid will show a dot for each person that can’t make the time (or a number when five or more can’t make it. The list of responses on the left side will show who is and is not available at each time (and the names are color-coded to match the availability tier).
  • Hide specific respondents. If you’re stuck for a time that works, you can click on a response to hide it. If there’s someone who has almost no availability or they’re less critical to the meeting, try again with them off.
  • Check the “allow access to this page to anyone who knows the URL” box and share the results page. Once you’ve picked a proposed time, let the community see your work and propose an alternative.

This page’s featured image by J Taubitz on Unsplash. I received no compensation or other consideration for this post.

Ben formerly led open source messaging at Docker and was the Fedora Program Manager. He is the author of Program Management for Open Source Projects. Ben is an Open Organization Ambassador and frequent conference speaker. His personal website is Funnel Fiasco.


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