Got a party, webinar, or a VIP-only sale coming up? We often get asked about the best way to share calendar events via email, so subscribers can book them in and create alerts in desktop and web calendars like iCal, Outlook or Google Calendar. But with the variety of apps out there comes confusion as to what’s the best way to go about sharing an event – do you link to a file? A .vcs? How about Google Calendar?

The thing is, unless you’re using an event management app like Guestlist or Eventbrite to handle everything, sharing a calendar event with your subscribers via email can be a slightly tricky task.

Back in my agency days, we’d share calendar events on a regular basis – both via email and on our in-house event registration pages. We found that there is no one ‘silver bullet’ method that played nicely with all the calendar apps – some people preferred adding events to their desktop apps, others web. So we settled on providing subscribers with two methods: either download and add the event as an .ics, or add it to your Google Calendar. In most cases, our invitees were happy.

Sharing an .ics file is not always as easy as you think

Exporting from iCalFirst up, it’s easy to mix up vCalendar’s .vcs with iCalendar’s .ics files. The skinny is that the iCalendar file format has largely superseded vCalendar and is supported across pretty much all the major calendar apps. So this is what we recommend you use. It’s also pretty easy to export events from calendar apps like iCal (pictured) and Outlook.

With that out of the way, the issue lies with hosting your .ics file on a server. Only servers that support the WebDAV protocol play nicely with the sharing of calendar files – if in doubt, ask your tech team. If your server doesn’t support WebDAV, all you will see is the raw text innards of the .ics file when you try to load it. Even when hosted on a server without WebDAV support, you can use the URL in your campaign and prompt your subscribers to ‘Download linked file…’ or ‘Save As…’ to grab the .ics from their email client, but this seems a little messy.

After reading about these file format and server config peculiarities, you’re probably getting an idea as to why Google Calendar is so popular.

Google Calendar for the win… But not for everyone

0What’s much easier is using Google’s ‘Event Publisher Guide‘ to create standalone events that can be added to a Google Calendar in the browser. The code provided by Google can be copied and pasted straight into an HTML email, as it doesn’t require JavaScript. If you have a Google Calendar account, try clicking the ‘Add to Google Calendar’ button to see the glorious end result.

The downside, of course, is that not everyone has a Google Calendar account. That’s why also serving an .ics is a bit of a necessary evil. It’s also why web-based scheduling and event apps are a dime a dozen.

The bottom line when it comes to sharing and adding individual calendar events via email is that you need to provide at least two options – in our case, both an .ics hosted on server that supports WebDAV and a Google Calendar event. I’d love to hear how you get your subscribers to add your events to their calendars, so feel free to suggest alternative approaches in the comments below.

  • Pam

    Hello, it is a week I am breaking my head trying to find also a solution to send a calendar invitation to iPhone/iPad. Does anyone have any advice? It will be much appreciated, thanks a lot

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi Pam, the iPhone and iPad automatically detect dates/times and converts them into links, which can then be used to add new calendar entries. Here’s how this works. Just make sure your email contains the event details – you can even add a ‘On an iPhone? Click the link above to add’ prompt if you see it to be necessary :)

  • raz0rback2

    A nice little warning:

    When working with .ics you should never simply change the .ics you’ve already created (for changing issues).
    You have to create a new one or your changes won’t be made within the .ics.

    Cheers

  • Jarrod

    I’ve never really sent an email with an attachment, what do the gate-keepers AKA spam filters think of that?

  • mrjmax

    I would advise that you do not include attachments but instead link to a calendar syncing tool like https://www.flogs.com/ . It covers pretty much every device or software

  • Pam

    Hi Ros, thank you so much, I am sorry I didn’t reply before. You guys are amazing!

  • Stilgherrian

    I’d also suggest making sure that apart from the two calendar methods Ros outlines, that the full name, date, time and address of the event is given as ordinary text within the body of the email. That way it can easily be copied and pasted into other applications besides calendars — say into a blog post, or an email to colleagues. And it can be searched for later, along the lines of “What was that event at the National Gallery last year?”

    Far too often I receive emailed event information where all the key information is embedded in a fancy graphic. The boss thinks it looks pretty, but it’s really useless.

    Finally, if your event is being held online — say it’s a live stream or a “webinar” [ugly word!] — make sure you provide a link to a time conversion service so recipients can click and have the time displayed in their local timezone without necessarily having to create a calendar entry.

  • Wayde Christie

    And why doesn’t CM give us a lovely little template tag so we can do this automagically?

    I’m an ideas man.

  • Sean Wood

    Any method of bringing in dates & events from Google Calendar?

    I have a client who would love to have a panel in an email template filled dynamically, say for the next 30 days of events.

  • Markymark

    I think after seeing https://www.flogs.com this is a better solution then adding attachement (with all the spam filters in business environments). Also you don’t have to worry about which device someone is using, it synced perfectly after creating a business calendar on Flogs with my Outlook and Google Calendar, didn’t had to install anything.

    Though a great post!

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