Microsoft released Bookings several years ago which was a great solution that originated from the small business side, allowing customers to book times with a company such as a hairdresser; anywhere that having timeslots available against one or more employees made sense.
This expanded out to Enterprise users, and I used it myself to provide external people a way to book time with me easily. Through a link, they would get taken to a portal with some basic options I’d configured, and based on my own calendar’s availability plus the options (such as 1 hour meetings between 10am and 2pm), anyone with that link could create a meeting with me.
The catch was that someone would need to configure this in a Microsoft 365 tenant, which created another account and a special calendar to manage this. A user couldn’t set this up themselves if things like Group Creation are restricted.
This is where Bookings with me comes in. Currently available worldwide in preview (July 2022), if enabled on your tenant and you have any of the below licenses, you can enable and starting using Bookings with me:
- Office 365: A3, A5, E1, E3, E5, F1, F3
- Microsoft 365: A3, A5, E1, E3, E5, F1, F3, Business Basic, Business Standard, Business Premium
Meeting organising options
There’s 4 native Microsoft solutions I’m aware of (beyond Scheduling Assistant in Outlook for Microsoft 365!):
Scheduler and Cortana
Bookings with me
FindTime is available as an Outlook add-in or can be accessed via https://findtime.microsoft.com/. It’s designed to be used contextually when you’re trying to organise. Tell it who you want to invite, pick several time options (and if you have their free/busy, it will firstly show times everyone is available), send out the invite. Recipients vote on which times work for them, and once the votes are in, a meeting is booked. An online guide is available talking through all this and if you aren’t already using FindTime, I highly recommend checking it out.
Cortana can also organise a meeting for you using Scheduler. In an email, you tell Cortana to book at meeting without any special commands, and she sorts it out with everyone. I need to play with this one more, as it sounds too easy to do! Watch the video here to get a better idea how it works.
Bookings creates a special calendar that can be used by other people to book time with you. They go to a webpage and select from options you’ve configured, and it’ll create a meeting. This can be with 1 or more people, or from a selection of people.
Bookings with me is like a lighter version of Bookings, and it’s in the name – it can only be with you, but similar booking rules can be created, and the other person books you through a web page.
The original Microsoft Bookings can be accessed by going to your Outlook mailbox and down the left side, click the ‘b’ logo:
This will take you to a page where you can get started with Bookings.
However, Bookings with me is different and can’t be accessed that way. Instead, go to your calendar on Outlook for the web, and if available/allowed in your tenant, there will be a ‘Create bookings page’ link you can use – or just try this link: https://outlook.office.com/bookwithme/me
Once there, you’ll be presented with two options; public, and private.
Both of these options create rules on what will appear for people to be able to book with you, the difference being one everyone can see, and the other only viewable with a specific link. Good if you want to give certain people extra options/special access/longer meetings and so on.
Regardless of the choice you pick, the options shown are the same, and you can change your mind once you’re in it anyway between public and private.
The options are fairly self explanatory here, you can decide if it’s a Teams meeting or not, how long the meeting will go for, and if you want buffer or lead times.
It’s worth just creating a very basic meeting option, because it takes a little while for your Bookings with me page to get created (roughly 5-10 minutes for me, others have reported up to 30 minutes):
When done, you’ll then have the option to be able to share your Bookings page.
The link will be unique to your page. Here’s what someone clicking the link sees:
Note that consumer Microsoft accounts aren’t supported – it’s a work or school account, or guest. Once in, you’ll then see the meeting types and times available for each type:
You’ll be asked for basic details – Name and Email are mandatory, with notes letting the person hopefully tell you why they want the meeting. A guest needs to verify their email address with a verification code, and then both parties receive the meeting invite.
That’s really it. A simple idea that’s executed well. It’s a hugely useful way of letting people book a time with you and not needing to go back and forth around availability. The other options at the top of this post are better ways when there’s more people involved at your end, but for what it’s trying to achieve, I use it as much as I can.
Regardless of which option you pick – avoid trying to manually organise meetings if you can’t see everyone’s availability for yourself!