Be a meeting Ninja with Scheduling Polls in Outlook.

Microsoft has replaced the legacy FindTime plug in for Outlook with a new native experience called “Scheduling Polls” which is now built directly into Outlook on desktop and the web experience.

Information regarding the end of support for FindTime can be found in the Message Centre article MC688929

Introducing Outlook Scheduling Polls

Scheduling Poll (which replaces a similar tool called FindTime) is now available to all users of Outlook on the Web and Mac. It is available to Classic Outlook for Windows users in Current Channel, Monthly Enterprise Channel, and Semi-Annual Enterprise Preview. It will become available to Classic Outlook users on the Semi-Annual Enterprise Channel in January 2024, and to the Semi-Annual Extended Channel in June 2024.

Users who do not have access to Scheduling Poll yet can either switch to the Current Channel, Monthly Enterprise Channel, or Semi-Annual Enterprise Preview in Classic Outlook for Windows; or they can use Outlook on the Web to create polls.

Creating and using Scheduling Polls

Using Meeting Polls is really simple. You need to be using the Outlook Desktop app or Outlook on the web, and it’s not currently available on mobile devices but hoping that will change as I create lots of meetings on the go!

Step 1: Start with an email message

We start a new Scheduling Poll from an email (not from Calendar). For example we might start with an email to a team of people (or it could be reply) and instead of asking for or suggesting a list of dates “that work”, we simply click on the Scheduling Poll button on the Toolbar as shown below.

I’d advise adding the people you need to the email message before clicking on the button.

Step 2: Create the Scheduling Poll

Try to ensure you have added the people you need to the email before you click the “New Scheduling Poll” button. You can add them later, but it makes the process a little slicker.

Once you click the “New Scheduling Poll” button, you’ll be presented with a new side-bar screen with some options within it.

From here, you can choose the meeting duration (default is 30mins), and then you’ll see availability of your “invited” attendees, based on calendar availability at the time of creating your poll.

You can see below, that there is availability on the 13th Nov but limited availability on the 14th November. You can also look as far out as you need to, but Scheduling Polls will help you find suitable dates.

Using Meeting Polls within Outlook
Scheduling Poll side bar in Outlook (picking options).

When you have finished picking the best dates for you (you are the organiser after all), you can click the “Next” button.

You are then presented with the ability to customise the meeting poll including:-

  • Meeting Location: For example Boardroom, Nero Coffee etc or online (via Teams).
  • Schedule with attendees reach consensus: This means once everyone has voted on a date that everyone can do, Outlook will automatically schedule the meeting
  • Hold Selected Dates on my calendar: Means the options you offered get blocked until the meeting is scheduled – in case someone books you first.
  • Notify me about poll update: Means you get an email notification when someone votes.
  • Lock Poll for attendees: Means attendees can’t suggest alternative dates.

When you are happy with the options (the ones below are default), you can click Create Poll.

Step 3: Send the Scheduling Poll

You can then check your email body and simply send the email with the poll attached. You can also if you need to add other people at this point which can also include external attendees such as customers or partners from other organisations.

Once everyone has voted on the meeting and a common time is agreed, Outlook will schedule the meeting for you and free up and “blocked” time.

Step 4: Editing or Viewing your Polls

You can get back to your polls at anytime to update them, cancel them or review the status of the voting, before and after the meeting is scheduled. You can do this from the email with the poll it or from the “Scheduling Poll” button in Outlook.

You’ll see that from here, you can do things like:

  • Send a reminder – this emails all attendees to remind them to vote (I use this a lot)
  • Cancel the poll – this cancels the poll and frees up your diary again
  • Add or Remove attendees – perhaps some one emails you and asks you invite someone
  • Update your preferred times – just like attendees you can pick a time you “prefer”

Responding to a Scheduling Poll as another person.

Any one receiving a Scheduling Poll will see the following within their email when the poll is sent. This is the email sent in the previous step and invites each requested attendee to vote.

Image showing the meeting poll email as received by a user.
Scheduling Poll email received from meeting organiser.

Each requested attendee then, simply needs to click on the vote button and choose the times they prefer, can attend or cannot attend. At the time of voting, the scheduling tool updates availability options based on their Outlook Calendar.

Depending on the options chosen by the meeting organiser (host), they can also see how others voted and can request a different date and even add additional attendees. These settings are controlled by the meeting organiser.

When everyone has voted the meeting is automatically scheduled. It not everyone votes, the meeting organiser can choose to schedule the meeting based on their own choice.

Voting on a meeting Scheduling Poll in Outlook.
Voting on a meeting Scheduling Poll in Outlook

Forcing the meeting to be scheduled.

Every time an attendee votes, (depending on the options you chose), you’ll receive an email notification like that below. This also includes the current status of everyone else that has voted (you’ll see here that 3 of the 4 attendees have voted).

I have the choice to wait until everyone has voted and the meeting get’s arranged for me, or if there are certain attendees that have not voted, I can choose to go with the majority and just book the meeting.

To do this I simply need to

  • Click on “view all your polls” to go see all my meeting schedules .
  • Select the meeting I want to schedule.
  • Decide if I want to send a final reminder.
  • Update the meeting time options or attendees
  • Schedule the meeting I think is best.
Choosing to schedule a meeting in Outlook Scheduling Polls
Choosing to force the meeting to be scheduled.

Once this is done, the meeting is scheduled and an invite sent to every user.

Attendees still need to accept or decline the meeting as usual.

That’s it – an overview and guide on using Scheduling Polls in Outlook.

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