Despite all the possibilities modern communication has given us meeting in person or in real life (IRL) is still usually the best method to get something done. But even a meeting over Skype or Google Hangout keeps the ball better moving than lengthy multi-layered email conversations. Nothing beets a one-on-one session, but I admit, three are cases when there is no way around bigger meetings. But how to schedule one or the other quickly without wasting time on email ping-pong?
For one-on-one meetings I find the best method is to simply suggest one time, e.g. “next Monday between 9 and 11 AM” and then ask for an alternative if the suggested time doesn’t work. I try to keep larger time slots during the week flexible for possibilities like these. So I can simply ask for another time, “I am also open Wednesday and Thursday afternoon, but can work with other times if needed as well. I appreciate your cooperation to get this done next week.”
Think about it, when given only one option recipients of your email only have to think about whether they have time at that date or not. If yes they are done. If not, they can check whether the other times match with their schedule. And if that doesn’t work, you already made a point that you want to get it done next week. So they will try to find a solution.
If you send a totally open email, you may easily get a response along these lines: “My next week is pretty booked. How about we get in touch the week after?” An answer like this means you essentially lost two weeks.
The more people are involved the more difficult it is of course to agree on a time. I would still use essentially the same technique but also include a Doodle Poll to avoid back and forth emails. Important is here to follow up with your first email soon, reminding everyone about the poll.
In general when you have a request, try to be specific about the modalities, because then it is more likely about the how and no longer the if of your request.