Outlook 2007 and Managing Automatic Meeting Responses

If you spend any amount of time in Outlook and manage meetings, you’ll quickly find almost Outlook 2007 logo overwhelmed by responses to meeting requests you setup with other people. 

As soon as they hit Accept, Tentative or Decline, it will fire off an email to the meeting organizer (you).  At Microsoft, this typically means that for every meeting request I send out, I get at least 6 responses back due to the average size of meetings I run on my team.  Before I hit <delete> on the responses, I always scan them in case the sender included a comment in their reply.  For instance, someone might Accept a meeting request but say “I’m going to be 15 mins late, but start without me”.  If I just delete that right away or use an an Outlook Rule to blanket filter responses, I’d have missed it.

So for years, I’ve been just getting these meeting request responses, and deleting them like an automaton.

Recently, Mike sent me this great tip the other day he found a great post on the Outlook team blog which sets up an Outlook Rule to not only reduce the inbox noise from responses to meeting requests, but also bubbles up the responses that I should read.

Their problem summary is exactly the problem many of us face:

If you’re anything like me, then you send and receive lots of meeting requests in Outlook. In a typical week I’ll schedule around 10 new meetings with different people – if a typical meeting has approximately five attendees that could be 50 responses that come back to my Inbox. I realized a few things about meeting responses:

  1. I only care when people Decline a meeting. I’m assuming most people will attend.
  2. Regardless of your response, if you type a comment in the body I want to see it.
  3. Outlook retains all of the response information on each meeting automatically in the “Tracking” tab.

Their solution is to create a rule to automate this:

  1. If an item comes in that is a Tentative or Accept meeting response, it moves it to my “Automatic Replies” folder and keeps it out of my Inbox.
  2. If it is a Decline it will remain in the Inbox.
  3. If the body has any content in it, regardless of the response type, it will remain in the Inbox.

I didn’t even know you could create a rule that could target only specific Outlook application message types (like Meeting responses). Cool!  My only tweak to their solution is that instead of moving the responses to a separate folder, I just delete them.  Email search is so good in Outlook that “Deleted Items” has become my “Archive” folder and removes another process when triaging my emails – I no longer have to think about archiving vs. deleting.

Check out their full post for the complete details on how to create the rule.