Organising meetings and email signatures

By Martin John Hadley | May 29, 2018


Content Warning: This is a navel gazing branding/workflow post.

Recently, Visible Data started using a fairly profesh looking signature in our emails. Each signature includes a link to the consultant’s availability via the excellent FreeBusy service.

Why document an email signature? Well, there are some interesting features of a signature:

  • Share Google Calendar free/busy availability via FreeBusy [Read more…]

  • Provide tools for booking meetings across multiple time zones [Read more…]

  • Design signatures that readers interact with through data-driven design [Read more…]

  • Selecting appropriate contact details and social media links [Read more…]

  • Programmatically update signatures (wishlist item) [Read more…]

Sharing availability with FreeBusy

Organising meetings is a pain. Regardless of whether attendees are sharing time-zones or not. There are a host of different meeting scheduling apps available, and we recently tried out a few different options from Zapier’s excellent overview of 17 of the best meeting scheduler apps and tools.

Hands down the best solution for us is FreeBusy. We synchronise the service with our GSuite Google Calendars and specify each consultant’s generally available hours in the freebusy.io/prefs page, folks can then book a consultant via a unique URL. Here’s my personal availability; freebusy.io/martin@visibledata.co.uk.

Gory Details

As makes sense, my personal life is organised through my personal Google account. There’s a calendar there called “Holidays of Martin”, which is where I add my holidays. But there’s a catch when I want to send this data to FreeBusy:

All day events don’t show as “BUSY” to FreeBusy

To prevent my calendar from looking fugly, I use Zapier.com and the following workflow:

  1. Duplicate all events from “Holidays of Martin” to “Holidays as not all day events” using this Zap.

  2. Share “Holidays as not all day events” with my Visible Data Google account

  3. Configure FreeBusy to use “Holidays as not all day events” in the freebusy.io/prefs page.

TimeZoneNinja

I often work with Lynda.com & LinkedIn Learning, which means I often need to organised meetings across multiple time zones. Fortunately, timezoneninja.com/ makes this really easy! The screenshot below shows the “doable” hours for meetings involving Oxford, New York, Santa Barbara and Tallinn:

Our signature includes the following helpful hint:

💥 TimeZoneNinja will help if we inhabit different timezones 💥

Data-driven Signature Design

I’ve personally worked for several years in industry and know how often marketing folks fuss about the beauty of their email signatures, but typically they don’t collect data to iterate on the signature and create an effective marketing tool.

Visible Data currently relies 100% on our partner training providers to market our courses and primarily uses email to arrange meetings, discuss projects and other B2B stuff. This means that we definitely don’t have a large enough sample size to effectively iterate on our signature.

Fortunately, there are quite a few services dedicated to designing data-driven signature campaigns! Unfortunately, most of the services don’t choose to share their data or offer advice on designing effective signatures; instead they simply advertise their A|B testing platform.

Sigstr are a welcome surprise. They’re fairly new and in 2017 completed a $5M Series A funding round for a tool that’s almost totally geared to designing email signatures. These folks have a fairly active blog where they share some of their findings, including eye-tracking analysis of email signatures (see here).

The biggest takeaway from Sigstr’s advice is the importance of an attention grabbing call to action (CTA). Our signatures have a very simply CTA, “Want to book me for a meeting or a training course?”. There are three features of the CTA we’d like to call attention to:

  • Neutral coloured, round-cornered CTA body for drawing the readers attention.

  • Emojis add colour consistently with the user’s OS/browser.

  • Using emojis instead of more images reduces the complexity, footprint and reproducibility of the signature.

Contact info and social media links

All our signatures include the following contact details:

  • Email address
  • Mobile number
  • Web address
  • Postal address

Interestingly, it’s controversial to include email addresses in signatures (Slate.com, Hubspot.com). Our two cents: it’s really frustrating interacting with mailto links, we often accidentally spawn a pre-installed mail client we can’t uninstall when we just want the email address. We’ve therefore take the opportunity to provide a human readable email address, and it’s a hill we’ll die on.

Where available, we always link to the following social media accounts:

  • Twitter
  • LinkedIn
  • Github
  • ORCID

Don’t know what an ORCID is? It’s tremendously important for reproducibility, the only internationally recognised unique identifier for individuals across publishing and data repositories. Learn more here.

Reproducibility

Visible Data currently uses GSuite to power our business, it provides our email and cloud-based storage. There are a few utilities that would allow us to programmatically modify our signatures but they are prohibitively expensive at the moment.

This means our signatures are terribly irreproducible. We have dumped the HTML template into the Github repository that powers this website.

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