How to Create a Pick-a-Meeting Request

Last reviewed on February 10, 2015   —  50 comments

This frequent request comes from users looking for a way to send out meeting requests for training sessions or benefits meetings with HR, where each employee can pick the session that fits their schedule.

I was wondering if anybody can tell me whether or not this is possible, and if it is, how would I do so? We are going to have about six different meetings scheduled soon. We therefore need to send an invitation out to a group of people for those meetings. However, each of them only needs to select one of the six meetings. Is there any way to send a calendar invite that will allow them to choose one of the six meetings and thereby automatically update the sender’s calendar AND the responders calendar?

Unfortunately Outlook doesn’t have the capability for creating this type of meeting request, but you can do nearly the same thing by creating the meetings in the calendar, then save each meeting as an ICS file on the hard drive. Send the invitees a message with each of the ICS files attached and instructions to choose the meeting they want to attend.

Create the Request

The steps are Create the meeting request:

  1. Create the invitations and invite required attendees, resources or yourself.
  2. Click Send. This step is important since you need a meeting request that was sent, so the responses can be tracked.
  3. Open each item on your calendar select File, Save as.
  4. Save each item as an ICS on the hard drive.
  5. Create the email message and attach the ICS files.
  6. When the recipients accept the meeting request, they’ll send a response and the meeting is added to their calendar.
  7. The sender’s copy will update with the recipient’s name as an optional attendee.

To avoid confusion, use the meeting date in the subject so the recipient only has to open the meeting they plan to attend.

Save a step: create all of the meeting invitations then select the meetings using Ctrl+Select. Use Actions, Forward as iCalendar to send. Note: this does not work with Outlook 2013 and up, you need to use the long method above.

Forward as icalendar

Do not right click and Forward, do not use Ctrl+F or Forward on the Actions menu.

In newer versions of Outlook, the Forward as iCalendar button forwards only one meeting. You’ll need to save each meeting as an ics then attach them to the email message. You can save a couple of steps by selecting one meeting at a time and clicking Forward as iCalendar, repeat for each meeting. Drag the ics attachments to one message then close the extra messages.

Pick-A-Meeting Request Video Tutorial

This tutorial shows you how to send multiple meeting requests to someone so they can pick which meeting they will attend. The organizer's calendar will show who has accepted for each meeting.

About Diane Poremsky

Diane Poremsky
A Microsoft Outlook Most Valuable Professional (MVP) since 1999, Diane is the author of several books, including Outlook 2013 Absolute Beginners Book. She also created video training CDs and online training classes for Microsoft Outlook. You can find her helping people online in Outlook Forums as well as in the Microsoft Answers and TechNet forums.

Please post long or more complicated questions at Outlook forums by Slipstick.com.

50 responses to “How to Create a Pick-a-Meeting Request”

  1. Trevor

    This was SO helpful! I searched everywhere for how to do this. Thanks!

  2. linda cowper

    this tutorial is great - it showed a simple method of offering multiple meeting dates within one meeting request/email. Thank you Diane!

  3. Dara

    Thanks for the tutorial. I've been using forward as iCalendar in Outlook 2003 with great success, but recently my organization has transitioned to Outlook 2010. Now, most 2010 users are telling me the icons don't work any more! We've found a work around by saving the ics file to the user's desktop, then having them open it from there, but that's a cumbersome way to deal with it. What am I doing wrong?

    Thank you Diane!

  4. Mimi

    Thank you thank you thank youuuuuu ! Very helpful !!

  5. John

    I can't get this to work in Outlook 2007; the "Accept" button is not available after clicking on the file

  6. sarah hoke

    I cannot get this to work in Outlook 2010. I see on the tutorial that it looks like you may still be using XP. Do you have any updates for Office 2010?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      For now, right click after selecting the items and choose Forward. Forget that - it's sending the messages a meeting drafts rather than invites.

      Forward as iCal is only sending one selected item in Outlook 2010 - might need to use that then drag all of the icals to one message.

    2. Diane Poremsky

      Here is a quickie video while i look for a better way to do it.
      http://www.screencast.com/t/RqDHpnRk

  7. J. Frohberg

    Dear Diane,

    Thank you for your guide. It is really helpful, but I have a problem (Outlook 2003):

    Everything works fine as long as I'm creating Meetings in Outlook and send them via ics to recipients. My problem is that I have a huge list of meetings which I'm importing to outlook. Unfortunately, these events show up as appointments. I can manually change them to meeting by inviting i.e. myself but as soon as I save this meeting I can't send it anymore via *.ics.

    It says "Error while executing operation".

    First of all, is there a clean way to import meetings into outlook?
    And second, what's this error supposed to mean?

    I would thank you very much for any assistance concerning this problem.

    Kind regards

    J. Frohberg

    1. Diane Poremsky

      What format are the meetings in before you import, eg, CSV, a pst file etc.

  8. Frohberg

    Right now I#M using *.xls (Excel 2003). Basically, it would be possible to use a different format, but concerning usability Excel is best at handling the input of lots of data.

    Kind regards

    J. Frohberg

    1. Diane Poremsky

      I'll see if i can come up with something.

  9. Frohberg

    Thank you very much.

    Kind regards

    J. Frohberg

  10. Lynn

    Per the video, if you have to send the meeting notices out to required attendees in step 1, everyone's going to get multiple meeting invites. You've done what you're trying to avoid. Why would I then send icalendars out to them again? Sorry - this doesn't make sense.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      You send the meeting to yourself (or required attendees) so the meeting is on your calendar. With it on your calendar, you can now forward the meetings to the invitees to pick the date they want to attend.

  11. Megan Hathaway

    I've seen it done where people have the meetings as multiple icons in one email, not just multiple attachments...how can I embed the meeting invite in the email as an icon?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      The email message would be set to use RTF format. Just make sure its only going to Outlook users - it's the only mail program that can read RTF email.

  12. Lonna

    I have 2010 and can not get this to work. My receipients do not have the accept button. I probably am doing something wrong...Help, Please! Thanks,
    Lonna

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Did you create a meeting request and send it to the required attendees or yourself? The meeting request needs to be sent ot save properly.

  13. Lonna McHugh

    I did just as the Oct 2012 video instructed(I think). I created both meetings on the public calendar. Then I forwarded the first mtg as ical, then the second as ical and copied it onto the first ical email. Still no accept button to the attendees.Don't know what I am doing wrong. Your help is greatly appreciated because I love this feature.
    Thanks,
    Lonna

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Are you sending the invitations to Internet addresses or coworkers? It sounds like the TNEF data might be getting removed.

  14. Lonna McHugh

    It would be to co-workers email addresses.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      I'll have to test this and see if i can figure out what is going wrong.

  15. jim

    I think people may have a problem with setting appointments vs. setting meetings. This worked for me (you'll notice I poached a couple of items). I'm working in Outlook 2010:

    This is a nice way ask recipients to choose among multiple meeting choices. Another benefit is if that recipient wants to change their mind at a later date, they simply need to delete the meeting from their calendar and pick another choice from your original e-mail:

    1. Make two (or more) new Meeting Requests in your calendar (don’t make Appointments, which is the default if you double-click on your calendar). You can do this by right-clicking on your calendar itself and choose “New Meeting Request” or by clicking on the “New Meeting” icon. Invite only yourself (or others that you need in attendance at ALL of these meetings) and any other Rooms or Resources that you will need to reserve. Click “Send” after you make each one, remembering that this will only go to you (and reserve the Rooms and/or Resources).
    2. With the meeting invites now on your calendar, open each one of them and choose “Save As” and choose the default iCalendar Format (*.ics) and save to a location of your choice. You don’t need to “Send Update”, just X out. Do this for all the meeting invites you just made.
    3. With all of these meeting invites now saved, open up a new e-mail and attached these meeting invites as attachments. Give your recipients instructions to choose one of the meeting invites by double clicking on it and choosing “Accept”.
    4. Tip: Consider making the Subject line of the meeting include a date and time. This will make the recipients’ choice easier.

  16. nick

    great stuff thanks...is there a way a recipient can pick multiple choices of meetings? I'm thinking as in Google Poll, that way the person organizing the meeting can see everyone's availability for all choices
    thx
    nick

    1. Diane Poremsky

      When you use this method, they could accept any or all - that is about the only way.

  17. michelle

    Is there a way to track the acceptance of the forwarded icalendar?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      A response should come back to the appointment owner when its accepted or declined, but there are a number of things that can go wrong, so you won't always get the update.

  18. Hira

    Hi Diane,

    Thanks for sharing this. I followed all steps from 1-6 just like you advised. First I sent all the meeting invites to myself and then saved the ics files in my hard drive. After this, I attached them in an e-mail. But I'm unable to see the names of people who've accepted the meeting in my calendar eventhough I am geeting accepted notifications in my inbox.

    I'd really appreciate your help in understanding how to be able to see how many people have accepted the meeting request(s).

    Thanks,

    Hira

    1. Diane Poremsky

      What version of Outlook do you use? Their names should be on the tracking tab (and were, the last time I tested this.)

  19. Hira

    Hi Diane,

    I'm using Outlook 2010.

    When I open the meeting requests and click on Tracking, I only see myself as the attendee probably because I put my name there and saved it before sending the meeting requests to everyone.

    The only way I'm able to see who'll be attending is when I get 'accepted' notifications in my inbox.

    Any suggestions/ advice?

    Many thanks.

    Hira

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Right, that is how it works. You can't add the invitees to the appointment without sending updates.

  20. Sam

    Is there a way send multiple meetings to a group and have a cap when a certain number accept. For example: I invite 80 people to 2 meetings but only have space for 40. After the 40 slots fill up the only other option would be the other meeting time?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      No, unfortunately, there is not. There is no way to do this built into Outlook. I tried using VBA to track it but my attempts failed. That's no guarantee that it can't be done, but it's not going to be a simple macro.

  21. Peggy

    Thank you for this information. Unfortunately, if I send out the .ics invitations via an email as stated above and I have to cancel or revise the original invitations on my calendar, those accepting the separate invites do not receive the updates or cancelations. Is the only way to let everyone know of the change to cancel via a regular email message, then they delete it manually from their calendars? If yes, I guess I then just resend an email with revised .ics invitations attached. Correct?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      They should get updates, but if not, then yes, the only way to notify them is by sending a new message or a new meeting request.

  22. Peggy

    Since I was sending the invitations to over 900 people, I had unclicked 'request responses.' That is why they weren't receiving any updates. To fix the problem, I allow responses but created a filter which puts all of the responses into a seaparate folder. Wa La! Thank you.

    1. Diane Poremsky

      Ah. Thanks for the update. I don't think I would have thought of that.

  23. Elizabeth

    I followed the instructions, but instead of attaching it to an email, I created hyperlinks in an Excel sheet so the user can see a grid of all the available times. Everything works great, the only problem is that the person who accepts the invitation can't see who else has accepted. The organizer can see everyone who has accepted, but the users can't even see his/herself as an attendee even though it is on their calendar. Is there a way for everyone to see who all will be at that meeting?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      That's a cool idea.

      No, the attendee list is only visible to the organizer and people who have permission to see the organizer's calendar.

  24. fahas

    Could you share the .xls file pls

  25. Simon O

    Hi Diane, in my case I need to schedule a series of one-to-one, private meetings with our enterprise acceleration center clients (start-ups).
    What I want to do is to say to them: "I will be doing a series of one-to-one, private meetings in half-hour slots starting at 12:30 on Thursday. Slots will be allocated on a first-to-reserve-first-served basis. Please pick your slot now. if your preferred slot is already taken, you will be offered the next available slot".
    Is this possible with a variation on the valuable advice you've provided above?

    1. Diane Poremsky

      No, Outlook can't do that. A scheduling service would be better for this. (scheduleonce, timetrade, doodle are some of the services).

  26. Simon O

    Hi Diane, I have a Doodle subscription. I'm trying to persuade Doodle to alter things such that my calendar shows WHO has picked what slot. At the moment all it shows me is that a slot has been picked. Entirely unsatisfactory!

    1. Diane Poremsky

      so who picked the slot doesn't sync down to outlook when you use doodle? scheduleonce syncs a meeting require. i forget what timetrade does - it's been awhile since i switched to scheduleonce.

  27. Simon O

    Hi Diane. Correct. When I use Doodle, I cannot see in my Outlook who booked the slot, which makes it pretty useless. Doodle's customer support's answer is look up the website or the app, which does not suit me.
    Thank you for your suggestion that I check out ScheduleOnce, It looks like it will do what I want.
    Simon

  28. NeedToKnow

    When I grab the 2 or more meeting request from my calendar as shown in the video, I go to ACTIONS>FORWARD as ICalendar, only the first meeting request is added to email--how can i grab all? thanks

  29. Maria

    I'm unable to track responses--is this par for the course? thanks

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