“That has to be the best meeting I’ve ever attended.”
“I learned a great deal as a result of that program.”
“I wish we had more seminars like this one that focused on the ‘real issues’ we are facing!”
Comments such as these are what most meeting planners are hoping their participants are saying.
But planning a successful meeting in order to receive these comments takes an enormous amount of time, energy and commitment on the behalf of many people.
Since meetings probably rank No. 1 on the “Top 10 List of Most Dreaded Workplace Activities,” we must be careful to put ample thought and consideration into the planning of such events.
Most of my time is spent attending either training meetings, state or national meetings, managerial meetings or a variety of other meetings, so I’ve taken some mental notes that I would like to share with you.
Please remember that all meetings are not created equally, so you can pick and choose from this list of suggestions that I am offering to help you when planning your next meeting.
As a proactive measure, I recommend that your staff have some input early on in the planning of the meeting.
Ask your employees to provide their suggestions for program topics and concurrent sessions. Studies reveal that when people are involved on a personal basis, their commitment to see success increases in direct proportion to their involvement.
I would advise that the meeting be held in an extremely nice, first class facility. Do your homework to find an interesting place to hold your meeting.
Check out the many hotels, motels and restaurants in the area to see what is available for your group size. If the event is to take place out of town, go surfing on the Internet, or call your local area Chamber of Commerce or convention and visitor’s bureau to assist you with your efforts.
You must also use careful consideration when it comes to the service and reputation of the facility. Exceptional service is a must if you want people to be treated right.
It is important to go the extra mile in accommodations so your employees will see that they are valued and appreciated.
If your meeting will involve food, take the time to make sure the food is really good. Call some references and ask specific questions about the food that will be served.
Nothing can ruin a meeting more than people being hungry throughout the sessions because the food was less than acceptable.
Spend the time to find a really good speaker or group of speakers for your event. The speaker sets the tone for the entire meeting, so don’t settle for less than the best.
Ask around to get word-of-mouth referrals and contact some references to see what others have to say about their presentation style. Also, be specific in asking for what you want.
If you want a motivational and inspiring keynote that is lighthearted, but with a strong message, request just that. Be willing to continue your search until you find the speaker who fits the mold for your organization’s needs.
Don’t skimp here, because booking the wrong speaker is probably the biggest pitfall in meeting planning.
It would be a good idea to make sure that the materials used at the meeting are relevant to the needs of the participants.
Talk about this with your speaker or workshop leader to ensure the supplemental handouts are of value to your people. Workbooks, pamphlets or other written literature should serve as great references for later use.
There should always be adequate follow-up to every meeting. In the highly competitive, time-conscious society we live in, there is no room for “dog-and-pony shows.”
Meetings should have a clear agenda, specific objectives and a purpose for holding them. Results — positive results, that is — is what we must be seeking from a meeting.
How will you ever know what worked if you don’t follow up?
I strongly recommend that you put together an evaluation sheet to be filled out by every participant after each meeting.
Make sure it is unobtrusive (i.e., no name or signature is required) and easy to fill out. Encourage feedback regarding the event and have follow-up sessions to discuss the next meeting.
Only when open communication like this occurs can one really know how successful a meeting really was.
Realizing that time is money, we must begin to be overly concerned about the outcome of the many meetings we attend.
Meetings should have substance and a lasting effect on each individual in attendance and should be worthwhile for everyone involved.
I challenge you to get started now on planning your next successful meeting!