Meeting Workspaces are a great way to collaborate with team members. They provide a place to store all of the documents, agenda items, attendee information, and other important meeting notes across multiple meetings. Microsoft Outlook can be used to generate new meeting instances for new dates, and all attendees can be given a quick link directly to the site to review pertinent information before and after the meeting is over.
Unfortunately, both Microsoft Outlook and SharePoint have a common problem: There are usually many different ways to achieve a task, but only one way is the “right” way that actually works as anticipated. Meeting Workspaces have the same problem.
Several times now I’ve been asked to help resolve a problem a colleague was having with Meeting Workspaces. In each case, my colleague had set up a Meeting Workspace and created multiple meeting instances (dates) and sent out the invitations to attendees. All appeared to be working correctly. But as my colleague went in to try to update specific information related to a certain meeting instance (such as the agenda items), we discovered that the meeting-specific information was not being displayed on the correct meeting dates. If my colleague added an item to the agenda for the second, third, fourth, etc. meeting, it wouldn’t show up. But when we went back to the first meeting in the series, we found the new agenda item to be listed there with all agenda items for all instances of the meeting.
All of the Meeting Workspaces settings were correct, and there was nothing to indicate what the problem might be. My colleague had successfully created other Meeting Workspaces following the same procedures, and each of those Meeting Workspaces was working correctly.
It took some time, but eventually I discovered the apparent cause of the error. In each of the Meeting Workspaces that was working properly, the URL had no spaces in it (Keep in mind that a space in a URL may be displayed in your address bar by the character string “%20”). In each of the Meeting Workspaces that did not work, the URL had spaces (%20) in it. So, for example, a Meeting Workspace with the URL of http://sharepointserver/team/MeetingWorkspace would work correctly, while a Meeting Workspace with the URL of http://sharepointserver/team/Meeting%20Workspace would not list the meeting-specific information on the correct meeting date.
NOTE: The two hyperlinks used above are examples only and do not point to real sites.
This glitch (It certainly can’t be an intended result) can cause immense frustration and confusion, especially since it is so difficult to find the cause. The best way to avoid running into this error is to make sure than whenever you set up a Meeting Workspace (whether using Microsoft Outlook or SharePoint), you MUST NOT use spaces in the URL. In Microsoft Outlook, this means that you cannot include spaces in the subject of the meeting. Unfortunately, Microsoft Outlook does not ask you for either the title or the URL of your Meeting Workspace. It simply generates both automatically from the subject line of your meeting. If the subject line of your meeting is blank, your new Meeting Workspace will have Untitled(#) as part of the URL (Where # is the number of Untitled Meeting Workspaces in the parent site, if more than 1 exists). If the subject line is not blank, the URL and title for the new Meeting Workspace will be set to whatever is in the subject line (even if it includes spaces).
To avoid the problem:
Here’s the trick…MAKE SURE YOUR SUBJECT LINE DOES NOT HAVE SPACES when you click the button to create the Meeting Workspace. You can add spaces back in later, but only after you’ve created your Meeting Workspace site. Perhaps a better way of doing it is to create the Meeting Workspace in SharePoint first, then simply connect to it later using Microsoft Outlook.
To fix an existing problem:
If you’ve already created a Meeting Workspace the wrong way, you can still correct it, but it’s going to take some work. First, open your Meeting Workspace site in your Web browser. Click on the “Site Actions” menu on the right-hand side of the page and select “Site Settings.”
Click on the “Title, Description, and Icon” link from the “Look and Feel” section. Scroll down to the bottom of the page and you’ll see that you can change the URL name to something that does NOT contain spaces.
BUT…you’re not done yet. Every link you’ve sent out to people through your Microsoft Outlook meeting invitations is now wrong. To correct the links, you will have to open the meeting invitation you sent out initially. From the “Meeting Workspace” pane on the right-hand side of the invitation, click “Remove” to unlink the meeting from the workspace:
Next, go through the steps to re-link the meeting invitation to the correct Meeting Workspace:
Step 1: Click on the “Change Settings” link in the Meeting Workspace pane
Step 2: Select a saved location for your meeting (should default to the last used Meeting Workspace) or click “Other” to enter a new Meeting Workspace URL:
Step 3: Select “Link to an existing workspace” and select the Meeting Workspace you just modified in SharePoint and click “OK.”
Step 5: Verify the settings you have selected and click the “Link” button:
Step 6: Make sure you’ve done everything correctly by clicking on the “Go to Workspace” button:
Step 7: Send out the invitation update to all attendees.
Step 8: Repeat steps 1–7 for each of the meeting instances/dates that have already been created.
Although Meeting Workspaces can provide wonderful functionality, like most of Microsoft’s more advanced features, they can be a little bit sensitive about how you set them up initially. If you know the right way to set up a Meeting Workspace, they can go a long way to increasing your productivity. But if you don’t know how to set up the Meeting Workspace correctly, you are bound to cause yourself problems down the road.
That’s all for today…now get out there and Write the Web!