Q: How can I establish recurring meetings with variations in Microsoft Outlook?

A: You might have a recurring meeting, such as a weekly departmental update, where there's a set resource such as a conference room that you use each time, but you need to make an exception. The exception could be an unusual, one-time occurrence, or perhaps a regular variation of the weekly meeting based on other criteria. An example might be that your usual resource room isn't available for your meeting on the first week of each month.

There's no simple mechanism within Outlook to manage exceptions to recurring meetings. There are different ways to go about configuring the meetings within Outlook, however.

If you have a regular recurring meeting where every second meeting has a different feature—for instance, the meeting room location alternates—the best way to manage this variance is to submit separate recurring appointments to the participants, one for each resource. If you have a one-instance exception to a recurring meeting, then you can open the specific occurrence of that recurring meeting, make the necessary amendments, and resubmit it to the meeting attendees. For example, perhaps you have a set recurring meeting, but this week you have to change the location because of unforeseen circumstances. Find the meeting within the calendar and double-click to open it. Outlook prompts you to answer whether you want this single occurrence or all the remaining recurrences to view or edit. If you select Open this occurrence, as Figure 1 shows, you can make changes to the one meeting, rather than the series, and send an update to attendees.

Figure 1: Making a change to a single instance of a meeting

When you create a new, recurring meeting with a variation of some sort, create the meeting with all the consistent components and save it before you make it a recurring meeting. Figure 2 shows a basic example of such a meeting.
Figure 2: A basic example of a meeting (click image for larger view)

In the Calendar View in Outlook, you can select the meeting you just created and use CTRL + C to save it to the clipboard and CTRL + V to save a copy of the item. You then open each calendar item, add the variation, such as different meeting rooms or different times of the day, set the recurring timing for each, as Figure 3 shows, and then send them as separate recurring meeting requests.
Figure 3: Setting the recurring timing for a meeting

This method applies to any variation you might have in a recurring meeting, from a conference room, to time of day or even specific attendees. Perhaps a certain attendee needs to attend only every fourth meeting, or the projector is needed only for the last meeting of each month. Whatever the difference, you can use a template meeting item with the common attributes of your recurring meeting and copy it, make the change and save it as a second recurring meeting, complementing the original.

Recurring meetings are valuable, timesaving tools for schedulers, but they can also be a hindrance when exceptions and changes are too frequent. Your fellow attendees might even tire of meeting updates. Getting meetings scheduled correctly the first time can be a big help.
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