SharePoint is all about collaboration right? As much as we enjoy sending emails, there are limitations and shortcomings around collaboration when relying on good old trusty port 25. Don’t get me wrong, Microsoft Outlook and Exchange are great communications tools but fail miserably when it comes to sharing information and working together in achieving a common goal. Have you ever tried to organise and plan a meeting by sending emails to attendees with multiple attachments and re-sending those when modifications are made. As a recipient this can become quite overwhelming and at times confusing, especially when you end up with 3 different versions of the same attachment. Welcome SharePoint Meeting Workspace Sites! In today’s post I will be promoting the use of Meeting Workspace Sites in SharePoint and how it will provide you with the framework to organise, capture and manage a meeting from start to finish without those annoying emails.
Meeting workspaces sites are out of the box templates within SharePoint and are great for structured meetings. These include but are not restricted to your standard regularly scheduled Team or Departmental meetings, or it maybe for a specific project group meeting. You can create a Meeting Workspace from any site within SharePoint but as best practice and to keep matters simple let’s begin by creating a separate blank site to store these meetings within our existing Team Site.
Click on Site Actions / Create Site and fill in the details as below. I am selecting a Blank Collaboration Site to house my Meeting Workspaces.
I will now create my first Meeting Workspace for a meeting that is being held in a couple of weeks. As the Site Administrator I will click on Site Actions / Create / Sites and Workspaces.
I will then enter a title and a description if required and then select a template from the “Meetings” tab. The description of each template and usage requirements are highlighted in the template selection area which I have replicated below for your convenience and I have also listed the web parts that are included by default for each.
Basic Meeting Workspace
A site to plan, organize, and capture the results of a meeting. It provides lists for managing the agenda, meeting attendees, and documents. The following web parts are included by default;
Blank Meeting Workspace
Name says it all. No web parts are included by default
Decision Meeting Workspace
A site for meetings that track status or make decisions. It provides lists for creating tasks, storing documents, and recording decisions. The following web parts are included by default;
Social Meeting Workspace
A site to plan social occasions. It provides lists for tracking attendees, providing directions, and storing pictures of the event. The following web parts are included by default;
Things to Bring
Multipage Meeting Workspace
A site to plan, organize, and capture the results of a meeting. It provides lists for managing the agenda and meeting attendees in addition to two blank pages for you to customize based on your requirements. The following web parts are included by default;
2 Blank Pages
In this meeting I would like to have the ability to allocate tasks that arise from the meeting itself so I have selected the Decision Meeting Workspace template.
After clicking on the Create button your Meeting workspace will be setup in a matter of seconds with the pre-defined web parts based on the template selected. Please note that you can easily add other web parts to the Meeting Workspace and then save it as a custom template to be reused.
In my case, I am going to add the “Things to Bring” web part into this meeting workspace via Site Actions / Create / Custom Lists. This is then added automatically added to my Meeting Workspace Site below.
Great, that’s too easy! Where to now? As the meeting coordinator I am now going to add the agenda items, upload any documents that are required to be discussed during the meeting and add items that need to be brought into the meeting.
We are all running Microsoft Exchange and Outlook right? I am sensing the “better together” theme that Microsoft always seem to market and hey, I am not disagreeing they do have a valid point. I am now going to launch my Outlook client and add the meeting to my calendar and at the same time formally invite the attendees and link the meeting workspace that we have just created for our monthly admin meeting into the body of the calendar meeting request all in one step.
Let’s create a meeting request in Outlook, specify the subject, location, start and end times (this is all important as this information gets appended to the details section of the Meeting Workspace SharePoint Site) . Then click on Invite Attendees and add them to your meeting. You will notice the Meeting Workspace icon in the Office Ribbon which you will now click on.
The meeting workspace tool bar then appears on the right. Click on Change Settings as we are not creating a Meeting Workspace as this has already been created. Click on Select a location and click on Other …
Copy and paste the address of the Meeting Workspace Site that we created earlier minus the default.aspx.
Click on OK and then click on Link to an existing workspace and select the relevant meeting workspace.
Then Click on Link to insert the Meeting workspace site link directly into the body of the meeting request.
You will end up with the summary below.
Click on Send to invite the users to the meeting. If the selected users do not have the rights to access the site you will be notified and provided with a popup in the Outlook notification bar that will link you to the Add Users permissions area to that site.
If I now navigate back to the site you will notice that the attendees are added and their responses are also captured. The additional details from the calendar request such as subject, date/time, location are also prefilled automatically.
During the meeting, you would ideally have this site open on your projector screen and discuss the agenda items, open documents to discuss from the document library, potentially add new documents as the meeting progresses such as the minutes of meeting and because I had selected the decision meeting workspace template you could as the meeting coordinator also allocate tasks on the fly which could potentially be sent via an automatic email. How? Navigate to the List Setting within the Tasks Library, Click on Advanced Settings and click Yes to Send email when ownership is assigned.
As you can see, through Meeting Workspaces and Outlook we have been able to collect and organise the documents needed for the meeting, create an agenda, track and manage attendee lists and responses. During the meeting we have also been able to easily gain access to the materials being presented, log any decisions being made and assign tasks to be completed against individuals. Finally after the meeting, we have created a single site that contains all the relevant information including post follow up materials, the ability to tack the progress of assigned tasks and everything in between.