Sending out party and other non-business invitations is quite possible in Outlook. While the system is primarily intended for meetings in companies, individuals can use it too.
All that’s in our article Easy Invitations with Outlook still applies today. Microsoft has tinkered with the look of Outlook but the fundamentals remain the same.
Using Outlook you can email invitations which include links to maps or more information.
Each person can RSVP with a click of a button. Outlook tracks those responses automatically to show a list of who is coming, who’s not and who hasn’t replied. There are options to manually mark RSVP’s for people who don’t have email or respond in other ways.
Start your party invitation from Home | New Items | Meeting
That opens a standard Outlook email/meeting window which lets you add an item to your calendar (and recipients) as well as send emails.
Setting up invitation
Let’s look at the Outlook features you can use. We’ll skip over the detailed, in-house, options like Room Finder and Auto-Pick and focus on the basic features which apply for invitations to anyone.
Title: is the email invitation subject line
Required / Optional: probably not an issue for a party except if there’s a “Guest of Honor” for a birthday etc. Enter the name or email addresses of anyone you want to invite.
Start / End Time: add the date/time. Use ‘Time Zones’ if applicable.
Location: Enter the name and address of the event. This will appear on the calendar item. We usually include in the message body the location and link to Google Maps. Adding the full address in the Location field doesn’t hurt.
When your email and meeting is all setup, click send.
Outlook sends an email with special additions that let receivers respond and add the event to their own calendars.
What recipients/invitees see
How the invitation appears to invitees depends on their email software or web browser.
Here’s our invite in Outlook software.
At the top are buttons to accept, tentative or decline the invitation. For each there’s a choice to Edit the Response before Sending (ie add a personal message to the reply), Send the Response Now or Do Not Send a Response.
If someone responds Yes or Tentative the event is added to their calendar. That’s why it’s important to put all the event details into the message because those details will appear on the invitees smartphones or other devices.
Beside the three main buttons are some more choices under the ‘dots’ icon. Calendar … opens your calendar. Or a standard Reply, Reply All or Forward with no response plus Forward as Attachment.
Gmail in Web browser
Very similar options are available in Google’s Gmail in a web browser. Gmail sees the calendar attachment to the incoming email so it provides Yes, Maybe, No options plus a glimpse of your Google Calendar for that time.
Click on your response then choose Reply and Send.
In our tests, the Gmail reply didn’t arrive. We’re not sure if that’s a temporary glitch or some ongoing problem.
As you’d expect, Microsoft’s Outlook.com handles the invitation smoothly.
The Scheduling Assistant and Tracking tab is where the Outlook magic happens.
Here you can see who you’ve invited. In an organization you can see shared calendars and room availability.
Adding more people
The party list looking thin? Add more people from the Scheduling Assistant then send them invitations. You don’t want to resend invites to those you’ve already emails.
The left column of check boxes lets you choose who gets email invites. UNcheck people who already have invites leaving only the additions, then click Send.
Changing party plans
Change of plans? No problem, the invitation can be resent to notify everyone and adjust their calendars. Change the details on the Meeting tab and send again to invitees. They’ll be able to respond.
We usually add a line of explanation to the message body as well.
Because Outlook handles invitation responses automatically, you might not be aware of your party status. Open the event in your calendar and choose Tracking.
The Response column shows who has Accepted, Declined, Tentative or not replied at all.
Tracking is also where you can do any manual changes to the response list.
Each Response item is selectable. If someone calls to accept, change their response status manually.
Similarly, you can add more people (like those without email!) and note if they are coming or not.
Party Invitee List
Tracking | Copy Status to Clipboard lets you get a snapshot of the invite status to paste into another document.
The pasted list is tab separated (not a table). That works OK pasted into Excel. In Word it’s a little messy, as you can see when Show All is on.
Insert | Table | Convert Text to Table will make something more presentable.