HOWTO: Use iCalendar Events for Easy Teleseminar Scheduling in MS Outlook

I always screw up timezones. Usually the night before a call I wake up in the middle of a panic attack and rush to the computer to triple check the timezones for the next day’s call.
With the launch of Blogwild!, I experimented with letting people put a reminder to buy my book on their Outlook and iCal calendars.
The standardized data format for events is the iCalendar format which can be imported by most calendar programs (including MS Outlook and Mac OS’s iCal). Previous calendaring programs have been based on the older vCalendar standard.
Open Outlook.
Click on Calendar.
File > New > Appointment.
The Appointment window opens allowing you to create the new event.
Use a sensible subject for the appointment. If this is a teleseminar, I usually include the dial-info in the location line. If it is onside, put the address in the location line.
If this is a reminder to do something, make the appointment have the same start and end time so it is 0 minutes.
If this is an actual session, input the proper start and end times. Note that the times will be converted to the timezone of your Outlook calendar (and then converted properly when imported into a user’s calendar).
For my ‘buy the book’ reminder, I used an event that was at Noon EST since I figure most folks would be at work. I used a reminder that was at 3 hours (9 AM EST) so people would see the reminder during their morning email read.
Include relevant URLs and Links in the details. For my reminder, I included a direct link to buying my book on Amazon.com as well as the details for the ‘buy the book today!’ offer.
If the event recurs, be sure to add that as well by using the Recurrence options.
Save the Appointment.
It is now in your Outlook Calendar (or iCal). Let’s convert it to iCalendar (.ics) format.
File > Save as… and a dialog opens. Select that you want to save this as iCalendar format. Change the filename so it makes sense: The_Title_of_the_Event.ics and click Save. (Be sure you save it somewhere you’ll remember like your Desktop)
Upload the .ics file either through FTP or through your blog or content management system.
Add a link to the .ics file to the relevant pages and posts.
Test it: Delete the event on your Outlook or iCal calendar and then click on the link on the uploaded .ics file.
Your browser should prompt you to download the file and/or open it into Outlook or iCal. (Some browsers don’t know what to do with them and users may see the plain text of the .ics file)
Be sure that the event makes it correctly into the calendar.
Double-test it: Have a friend in a different timezone test it as well to ensure that the timezone conversion is correct as well as any recurrence.
Tah-dah!

One thought on “HOWTO: Use iCalendar Events for Easy Teleseminar Scheduling in MS Outlook

  1. Trisha Cupra

    A bit on a tangent, but if you have trouble with timezones, and if you use Firefox, the FoxClocks extension allows you to see what time it is right now in whichever cities in the world you want, at once.
    It’s reassuring for me to be able to see what the time is right now in the city a teleclass is being held in, rather than doing yet another timezone conversion at the last minute to satisfy my paranoia.

    Reply

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