Introducing Users to the Concept of Meeting Workspaces in MOSS 2007

Using Meeting Workspaces to organize all the information need to support recurring (and one time) meetings is one of my favorite features of SharePoint.  However, while the concept of a meeting workspace is usually very appealing to users, when they actually try to use them in practice, I haven’t always found a lot of success, particularly for companies where Outlook isn’t their e-mail client.  Part of the issue has been developing a good framework for where the workspaces should “live” in the navigational hierarchy of a portal or team site.  I thought I’d share a solution we’re about to deploy at one of my clients that users seem to really like.  

In this scenario, the client uses Lotus Notes for e-mail and calendaring and the team in question has a manageable number of recurring meetings for which they formally create agendas and record meeting minutes.  They need to be able to post presentation materials and agendas in advance of the meeting and post meeting minutes and decisions after the meeting.  We created a custom meeting workspace template to meet a few other requirements.  In general, the team doesn’t care if everyone sees all meetings, even if they are not invited to the meeting.  However, they do want to secure meeting content from people who are not invited to the meeting.

From the team site home page, we created a sub-site called Meetings where we added a calendar from which the team will create Meeting Workspaces.  We used a “blank” publishing template to create the Meetings site so that the left hand navigation would be “empty.”  We also added a Table of Contents web part showing just one level of navigation so that we would have a “security trimmed” directory of meeting workspaces.  Each new meeting workspace creates a link in the left hand navigation, an entry in the drop down list of sub-sites on the Meetings tab, and an entry in the “meeting site directory” on the main Meetings page.  We also created a link in the left hand navigation called “Add New Meeting” to make it easy to create a new calendar entry.

This is a very quick and “out of the box” way to get users to try meeting workspaces.  The fact that navigation and the Table of Contents web part area “security trimmed” helps users feel more comfortable about document security and provides a “custom” directory for each user so that they only see meeting workspaces to which they have access.  Since this particular client uses Lotus Notes for e-mail and calendaring, they use Notes to add meetings to each user’s calendar and they include a link to the Meeting Workspace in the Notes meeting invite.  Clearly, some of these steps could be avoided if Microsoft was more successful at getting all their customers to drink all the Kool-Aid, but since this scenario is for a team that has mostly recurring meetings to manage, attaching the meeting workspace to a Notes calendar entry only has to happen once for each recurring meeting.

For a description of this approach with screen shots, see http://www.susanhanley.com/sitebuildercontent/sitebuilderfiles/meetingworkspaces.pdf.

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

  
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