At Tooploox we use Google Calendar a lot. We put every meeting in it and we have a few shared calendars for our partners as well. Few months ago we improved our conference rooms with Google Chromebox for Meetings. It allows us to easily jump on calls and see all the participants on a big screen with great voice quality throughout room. When it works, it works great! However, sometimes we encounter Hangouts issues, especially when the call is between two organisations using Google for Work.
Lately I noticed, that even though the Google Calendar is quite a powerful tool, not many people know it well enough. I'd like to introduce some key features, that will help you use it effectively for events scheduling, Hangouts, rooms management and more.
Problem we're trying to solve
It's quite easy to check the calendar for one person if you're scheduling one-to-one meeting. It's a lot harder if you need to schedule a 1-hour slot for every blogger in the company.
Google Calendar's best friends
Here is the list sorted by how often I find it useful myself.
Let's dive right in.
1. Edit event is your friend
First, you should start by picking the time followed by Edit event button click.
This way you don't create an event, that you need to reschedule later on. Rescheduling is quite annoying, as it sends a lot of spam to people. So take your time while scheduling the event to avoid meaningless emails to bunch of people - they might miss the event because of information overflow.
2. Google Groups is your friend!
Groups are great. They take a little bit of time to setup and maintain, but make emailing and scheduling the events almost effortless. If you're an organisation admin, have a look at Groups documentation. It's fast and easy, although some parts of Google Admin Console could use more love UX-wise ;).
In Edit event screen you can add the whole group to the event, you can also review the members and remove them as you see fit. This saves a lot of time and effort.
3. Find a time is your best friend!
On Event edit view there is Find a time tab, that's really easy to miss, but quite helpful when scheduling a meeting.
This perspective makes it really easy to find a free spot for everyone to have a meeting. You can also add other participants in the Guests section.
4. Where can we meet? (Room Resources is your friend)
Room resources makes it possible to manage rooms' availability for the organisation. To set it up you need organisation admin rights. Go to Admin Console → Apps → Calendar and pick Resources panel. Adding new resource is quite easy:
Here the beauty of the Resources begins - they can work as a calendar with auto-accept of events that do not conflict. But that beauty comes at a price - finding that calendar is, frankly, almost impossible.
There are two ways around it - one for the admins and one for others :P
Admin can edit the just-created Resource to check its calendar link, then paste the link into Other calendars field of Google Calendar.
But what about the normal users? There is a solution for them too, but not really an easy one. First and foremost - one of the admins must add the resource to their calendars before anyone can access them. After that, you go to Other calendars → Browse Interesting Calendars → more → Resources for [your domain] and then you can Subscribe to the relevant calendar. This way users can easily check when a given room is available and admins can manage how the Resource responds to events.
If you couldn't find the Resource calendar anyway, follow the official support article.
Now you should see the Rooms tab by the Guests and you can add an available room to the event. It has some additional feature connected with Chromebox for Meetings, but I'll discuss that later.
5. Don't hijack the events (Org calendars is your friend)
Uncertain how to hijack the event? Here's quick tutorial you might consider a bad example ;)
Let's say we have a friend, Bob. Bob is creating an event for 6 people. He found a time and reserved a room. All seemed great, life is beautiful. Unfortunately, Bob is a crappy driver and he had a fender bender 10 minutes before the meeting. It was crucial for Bob to be part of the meeting, but he only managed to call a colleague to inform about the situation. Everyone agreed, that they should reschedule the meeting, but no one could do that. What a bummer! Bob hijacked the meeting by using his own calendar instead of organisation calendar, where anyone can modify the events. Now the room is locked and agenda gone - we need to wait for Bob to move the event to other date. Instead Bob should use a shared calendar when creating the event.
I hope you enjoyed the story :P
Let me omit the part on how to create organisation calendar - considering how convoluted some parts of the Google for Work are, creating a calendar is relatively simple enough. It might be harder to share it properly though.
Remember, that there are four possibilities when sharing a calendar:
From my experience, it's safe enough to use the option of Make changes AND manage sharing. This way anybody in the organisation (not only admin) can share the calendar with others, that may need it. It removes impediments and makes life easier for everyone (especially the admin ;-)). Even if someone removes a few entries - Google Calendar has a trash folder, where you can find the removed events!
6. Room swapping (cracking through Room Resources)
Sometimes you have an event scheduled in one room, but all the interested people are in other room already and you want to quickly swap the rooms in calendar (e.g. in order to get it going for Chromebox). Here's a dirty hack you can use to swap the room and force accepting the event.
By default room calendars will resolve conflicts between the events by rejecting every event after the first one for given time. But you can force accepting the event if you turn on the Room Resource calendar and pick "Yes" as the RSVP for the calendar event.
Chromebox for Meetings tips
As a finishing touch, I'd like to share some tricks we use from time to time during Hangouts conferences with Chromebox.
Chromebox for meetings is great. It has awesome hardware, great mic and astounding camera. But the Hangouts infrastructure is not that great. The biggest and most annoying are conferences between two organisations. The problem is that sometimes we don't have 'the rights' to access Hangouts, even though the Room Resource is added and the meeting pops up on the Chromebox.
For now we solved that by making the link to the Hangouts public, so that everyone with the link can join (after she gets accepted by someone on the call).
Below you can find some screenshots on how to setup public link for the Hangouts conference call.
Notice, that the link icon is different after sharing - this way you can easily notice, if your conference is available for other organisations or not. It's a hack, not a correct. Hangouts should let the invited people into the call no matter what, but from time to time it doesn't.
There is plenty of other functionality, that I didn't cover here. If you use calendar on daily basis, you should focus on events' location (integrated with Google Maps), Guests privileges or events visibility. On the other hand Calendar Settings is source of great features, where you can customize default event duration, set browser notifications (instead of interruptive alerts) or configure working hours. Everyone can find something interesting, you just have to go deeper ;-)
Now you should be able to easily navigate through Calendar's and Hangouts' caveats. I hope you found the material interesting.
If you know any other Google Calendar tips and tricks, please share with us and we'd gladly cover them in following post.