METHODS, SYSTEMS, AND APPARATUSES FOR AUTOMATED CONFIRMATIONS OF MEETINGS

US 2009 94 088A1

drawing #0

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Methods, systems, apparatuses, and computer program products for confirming attendance of prospective attendees to a meeting or events via time management or event scheduling applications, such as calendar applications, are disclosed. Various embodiments comprise scheduling the meeting, waiting for a period of time, and automatically sending confirmation requests to one or more prospective attendees of the meeting. Some embodiments also comprise sending invitations to and receiving acceptances by one or more prospective attendees. Some embodiments further comprise receiving one or more responses to the confirmation requests from the prospective attendees. Some embodiments may reschedule the meeting, or events of the meeting, based upon responses to the confirmation requests. Various embodiments may send or receive the confirmation requests and responses via instant messaging (IM) messages, e-mail messages, and short message service (SMS) messages.

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Claims

1. A method to automatically confirm attendance of a meeting, comprising:
storing parameters for the meeting, wherein at least one of the parameters is a name of a prospective attendee to the meeting;
waiting a period of time; and
sending a confirmation request to the prospective attendee to confirm that the prospective attendee will attend the meeting, wherein the confirmation request is automatically sent by an application.

Show 9 dependent claims

11. A system for confirming attendance of a meeting, the system comprising:
a meeting definition module to store parameters of the meeting, wherein at least one of the parameters comprises an amount of time before the meeting to send a confirmation request;
a time calculation module to determine the amount of time before the meeting; and
a confirmation module to automatically send, based on the determination of the amount of time, the confirmation request to a prospective attendee of the meeting.

Show 8 dependent claims

20. A computer program product comprising a computer usable medium having computer usable program code for confirming attendance of a meeting, the computer program product including;
computer usable program code for storing parameters for the meeting, wherein at least one of the parameters is a time to send a confirmation request to a prospective attendee of the meeting;
computer usable program code for determining whether the time to send the confirmation request has arrived; and
computer usable program code for automatically sending the confirmation request upon the determination that the time has arrived.

Show 14 dependent claims

35. An apparatus for confirming attendance of a meeting, the apparatus comprising:
a meeting input module to enter parameters of the meeting;
a meeting definition module to store the parameters, wherein the parameters comprise a name of a prospective attendee for the meeting and when a confirmation request is to be sent;
a communication module to send invitations to the prospective attendees;
a time calculation module to determine an amount of time before the meeting is to begin; and
a confirmation module to automatically send, based on the determination of the amount of time, the confirmation request to the prospective attendee, wherein the confirmation module is configured to send the confirmation request via at least one of an e-mail, a text message, an alpha-numeric page, a short message service (SMS) message, an instant messaging (IM) message, and a telephonic call.

Description

FIELD

The present invention generally relates to the fields of time management, appointment scheduling, event scheduling, meeting management, and calendaring applications. More particularly, the present invention relates to systems, methods, and computer program products for automatic confirmations of meetings in time management or event scheduling applications, such as calendar applications.

BACKGROUND

Time management and event scheduling applications have become integral parts of the lives of many people. People use calendar applications to help them manage business schedules and daily activities, such as for making appointments for various types of meetings. Electronic calendar applications, such as. Lotus Notes®, Microsoft Outlook®, Mozilla® Sunbird, and other types of calendaring and e-mail suites or programs provide capabilities for scheduling meetings.

People, such as managers and team leaders, use calendar applications or time management applications to schedule meetings with their respective employees or team members. A person may use the calendar application to schedule a meeting time and send invitations for the meeting to prospective attendees. Each attendee invited to the meeting may accept, decline, or ignore the invitation. The calendar applications may notify the person scheduling the meeting which attendees have accepted, declined, and ignored the invitations. The calendar applications may update or make appropriate entries, or reservations, in the calendars of the attendees or invitees which have accepted the invitations to attend the meeting.

One drawback of existing calendar applications is they generally do not have any automatic follow-up or auditing capabilities. The existing calendar and time management applications do not allow for automatic confirmation of attendance by invitees or prospective attendees. For example, a meeting coordinator may use a calendaring application to schedule a meeting and send out meeting invitations. Unfortunately, many of the prospective attendees to the meeting may accept the meeting invitations and plan to attend but have conflicts arise which prevent them from attending the meeting. If the meeting coordinator does not follow-up with the prospective attendees, such as by calling or sending an e-mail reminder, he or she may be surprised to find that many of the prospective attendees have changed their schedules and will not attend. Additionally, with poor attendance, the purpose or objective of holding the meeting may become moot due to the poor attendance. For example, the purpose of the meeting may be to give a series of presentations to a general manager. If the general manager cannot attend the meeting, the goal of the meeting is rendered unachievable.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Aspects of the embodiments will become apparent upon reading the following detailed description and upon reference to the accompanying drawings in which like references may indicate similar elements:

FIG. 1 depicts a system for scheduling a meeting with events, with the capability to automatically confirm meeting attendance;

FIG. 2 depicts an embodiment of a screen that a meeting coordinator may use to create meetings, including the creation of events for the meetings, for which the meeting coordinator may wish to have automated confirmation of attendance by one or more prospective attendees;

FIG. 3 shows an alternative embodiment of an interface screen that a meeting coordinator may use to schedule a meeting and request automated confirmations;

FIG. 4 shows an embodiment of a confirmation interface screen that a prospective attendee may see when a time management program sends a confirmation request;

FIG. 5 shows an apparatus for automatically confirming attendance for prospective attendees of a meeting, comprising a meeting definition module, a time calculation module, a confirmation module, and a communication module; and

FIG. 6 illustrates one method of inviting prospective attendees to a meeting and automatically confirming attendance of the prospective attendees.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EMBODIMENTS

The following is a detailed description of example embodiments of the invention depicted in the accompanying drawings. The example embodiments are in such detail as to clearly communicate the invention. However, the amount of detail offered is not intended to limit the anticipated variations of embodiments; but, on the contrary, the intention is to cover all modifications, equivalents, and alternatives falling within the spirit and scope of the present invention as defined by the appended claims. The detailed descriptions below are designed to make such embodiments obvious to a person of ordinary skill in the art.

Generally speaking, the present invention relates to systems, apparatuses, methods, and computer program products for automatic confirmations of meetings in time management or event scheduling applications, such as calendar applications. One embodiment comprises a method of confirming attendance to a meeting. The method comprises scheduling the meeting, waiting for a period of time, and automatically sending confirmation requests to one or more prospective attendees of the meeting. Some embodiments also comprise sending invitations to, and receiving acceptances by, one or more of the prospective attendees. Some embodiments further comprise receiving one or more responses to the confirmation requests from the prospective attendees.

One or more embodiments may also notify a meeting coordinator about one or more of the responses. Some embodiments involve rescheduling the meeting events based upon one or more of the responses to the confirmation requests, such as a response involving a declination to attend the meeting by a prospective attendee whose attendance has been designated as mandatory. Various embodiments may employ various methods of sending the confirmation requests and/or receiving the responses to the requests. For example, embodiments may send or receive the requests and/or responses via instant messaging (IM) messages, e-mail messages, and short message service (SMS) messages.

Various embodiments may determine whether events of the meeting are occurring within their scheduled time slots, or more generally whether the meeting events are on schedule. When the events are not occurring on schedule, one or more of the embodiments may send one or more rescheduling requests to prospective attendees. Further embodiments may also determine an arrangement of events for the meeting based on selected time slots for events of the meeting received from prospective attendees.

Some embodiments involve scheduling one or more events in calendar applications of prospective attendees, which may include designating the meeting or event as pending until after acceptance and/or confirmation. Various embodiments may perform numerous actions upon the sending of the confirmation requests, such as canceling the meeting, determining whether to reschedule the meeting, notifying a meeting coordinator of one or more of the responses to the confirmation request, and determining an alternate arrangement of events of the meeting.

System embodiments may comprise a meeting definition module to store parameters of a meeting, such as names of prospective attendees to the meeting, a time calculation module to determine when the meeting is scheduled to begin, and a confirmation module to automatically send, based on when meeting is scheduled to begin, confirmation requests to the prospective attendees of the meeting. The system embodiments may also include an input module to enter the parameters for the meeting definition module, which may accept parameters of a start time for the meeting, a meeting end time, a meeting date, and when one or more confirmation requests are to be sent.

Alternative system embodiments may include a communication module to send invitations to prospective attendees, as well as potentially sending the confirmation requests. Various system embodiments may employ various means of sending the confirmation requests, such as by way of an e-mail, a text message, an alpha-numeric page, an SMS message, an IM message, and a telephone call and/or voice-mail message. Some embodiments may have an arrangement module to determine an arrangement of the events for the meeting.

One or more computer program product embodiments may include code for scheduling parameters for a meeting, with one of the parameters being a time to send a confirmation request to a prospective attendee of the meeting, code for determining whether the time to send the confirmation request has arrived, and code for automatically sending the confirmation at the proper time. Some embodiments may include code for sending invitations to prospective attendees, while other embodiments may include code for receiving responses to the invitations. Even further embodiments may include code to solicit input from one or more prospective attendees for events of the meeting. For some of these embodiments, the arrangement module may select an alternative arrangement based on the solicited input.

Numerous computer program products include code for receiving responses to confirmation requests, with some of those embodiments also including code to notify a meeting coordinator of the responses and/or reschedule the meeting based upon one or more responses of prospective attendees. Various embodiments include code for determining an arrangement of events for the meeting, with some of those embodiments also including code for scheduling one or more events of the arrangement in a calendar application of one or more prospective attendees. Further embodiments may also include code for detecting when an event of the meeting occurs at an unscheduled time, with some of those embodiments also having code to send notifications to prospective attendees due to the occurrence of one or more events occurring at unscheduled times.

Of the embodiments that have code for determining an arrangement of events for the meeting, some also have code for sending confirmation requests based on the arrangement. Some of the embodiments may select an alternative arrangement based upon one or more responses to confirmation requests of the prospective attendees. Various program code embodiments may include code for automatically sending confirmation requests via an IM message, an e-mail message, an SMS message, or a message by way of a telephone.

Many of the discussions use the terms meeting coordinator and prospective attendee. The term meeting coordinator may, depending on the embodiment or the situation, mean a supervisor of a group of people. However, the term may also be interpreted to mean one of the participants to the meeting, who is a coworker of other people who will be attending the event. Additionally, the meeting coordinator may not be a person participating in the meeting at all. For example, a supervisor may ask his or her secretary to schedule a meeting, wherein the secretary may not attend the meeting. Prospective attendee may generally be thought of as a person who is expected to attend the meeting. However, the person may not be able to attend, for one reason or another, and may have an alternate person attend the meeting in his or her place. Additionally, worth emphasizing, is the fact that meeting coordinator and prospective attendee may refer to people who do not actually attend the meeting.

Some of the discussions use the terms server and client. Generally, the term server may refer to a computer or device on a network that manages network resources. Clients may generally be thought of as computer applications running on computer systems that access the services provided by server applications and dedicated server computers. However, in several instances in the discussion these terms are interchangeable. Accordingly, one should not conclude that a discussion that uses only client or server terms, as opposed to using computer or computer systems terms, is meant to limit the discussion to one term or the other. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that such variations may be substituted for the described methods and systems, and employed in accordance with similar constraints, to perform substantially equivalent functions.

Turning to the drawings, FIG. 1 illustrates a system 100 which may comprise several different computers and calendaring devices which may be involved with automated attendance confirmation for a meeting scheduled in a calendar application 130. For example, system 100 may allow a meeting coordinator to schedule, prioritize, develop agenda items, and confirm attendance for a meeting. System 100 may comprise a network having many interconnected computing devices. For example computer 155 may comprise a desktop or laptop computer connected to a number of other computers, calendar or time management devices, and other communication devices, such as computers 160 and 165, cellular device 170, portable calendar device 175, and telephone 180. The types of devices that may connect to a computer used to confirm attendance for a meeting may vary from one embodiment to the next. For example, cellular device 170 may comprise a cellular telephone in one embodiment or a two-way pager in another embodiment. In different embodiments, portable calendar device 175 may comprise one or more of a variety of different devices, such as a Palm® organizer or a Windows Mobile® personal digital assistant (PDA) device as a couple of examples, having wireless communication capabilities.

The other computers of a system may also comprise different types of computing devices. For example, one or more computers may comprise a desktop or a laptop computer. Alternatively, in different embodiments, the computers of a system may comprise a mixture of server and client computing devices. For example, computer 155 may comprise a server running calendar application 130 that users of client computers, such as computers 160 and 165, may access.

The computers of a system, such as system 100, may connect to other computers of the system using a variety of different hardware in various embodiments. For example, computer 160 may comprise a desktop computer connected to computer 155 via an Ethernet cable coupled to a local or wide area network (LAN or WAN). Portable calendar device 175 may comprise a combination cellular telephone/PDA device coupled to computer 155 over the Internet, which may be represented by communication network 185, via a wireless virtual private network (VPN) link and located across town or in another country. In other words, various embodiments of a system like system 100 may comprise an almost limitless number of wired and wireless communication devices, allowing computers and portable devices of the system to communicate with each other, wherein the computers may be located close to or remote from each other.

The computers and other devices of a system may each execute a variety of different applications and communicate with each other in a variety of different ways, in different embodiments. For example, in addition to calendar application 130 computer 155 may run a second application 150, which may be an e-mail server application. That is to say, application 150 may comprise a simple mail transfer protocol (SMTP) server application, as an example. Calendar application 130 may work in conjunction with the SMTP application, sending e-mails to and/or receiving e-mails from users of system 100. Alternatively, application 150 may comprise a web page server, a file transfer protocol (FTP) server, a gopher server, or a telnet server, as examples. In other words, applications 130 and 150 may establish communication links or sessions with applications running on computers 160 and 165, cellular device 170, and portable communication device 175.

Applications on computers 160 and 165, as well as other devices such as portable calendar device 175, may also be SMTP server applications, telnet servers or clients, local calendaring applications, time management applications, dedicated e-mail applications, web browsers, and so on. For example, a person using portable calendar device 175 may receive a confirmation request dispatched via an e-mail. The person may retrieve the confirmation request while traveling via an e-mail program and reply with a response e-mail to computer 155. Alternatively, upon receiving the e-mail confirmation request, the person may initiate a secure web browser session with computer 155 and calendar application 130 and confirm via an interactive web page of calendar application 130.

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