By Michael Sark
Ask anyone about meetings and you can bet they will have plenty to say — there are too many meetings, not enough meetings, there were too many people there, I couldn’t hear the speaker there wasn’t enough food and the list goes on. Anyone who attends meetings has an opinion on them and they are rarely positive. To help you turn your meetings into a more effective use of people's time and minimise unforeseen hurdles, we've put together 6 points to consider when you are planning your next meeting.
1. THE BRIEF
As with anything in life, the planning of a meeting runs smoother when you have a clear idea of how you want it to run before you start. Important questions to answer before you even start planning include:
Who will host the meeting?
How many people will attend?
Who will be the point of contact for the meeting?
How do attendees get in touch and collaborate with you prior to the meeting?
2. THE APPOINTMENT
It should go without saying, but you need to make sure that everyone who will be attending the meeting knows, when it is being held, where it will be held and how long it will last. Providing links to tools such as Google Maps can make people's lives much easier on the day when they are trying to find a venue.
Little things like ensuring there is a specific start and finish time help attendees plan the rest of their day around the meeting. I generally find start and finish times are particularly helpful if you stick to them.
On they day, reserve the meeting space at least half an hour before the scheduled start time to compensate for early arrivals and any additional preparation time. This will also give you enough time to set up any audio or visual aids required for the meeting. It may even be a good idea to schedule some time on the day prior to your meeting to make sure you are comfortable with the technology and equipment set up to ensure it is functioning properly rather than madly trying to get laptops talking to projectors as people arrive.
3. THE SPACE
Every meeting is different, and every meeting space has a different purpose. Finding the right meeting space for the purpose of your meeting can play a big part in whether the meeting is a success. Ask yourself what do you need out of your meeting space?
Do you require a space with natural light?
What AV capacity do you require from the space?
Are you looking for a utility space (one that just gets the job done) or are you out to impress your clients?
Do you need a separate breakout area or are you happy to have breaks within the meeting space?
The configuration of the room is a very important aspect that needs to be considered. A board room setup may be appropriate for your directors meeting, but may not be suitable for group workshops or seminars, so it is important that your chosen venue can be configured to match your needs.
4. THE CATERING
Keeping your clients refreshed and happy by providing catering for your meeting's attendees is a very important consideration – especially if the meeting is scheduled to last longer than a few hours. People bring better ideas to the table when they aren’t fatigued, bored or more worried about their stomach.
Make sure there is coffee available on arrival (as most people don't function without coffee) and there is plenty of fresh water available throughout the day. It's important to balance tea and coffee with water as many studies have shown that even mild dehydration has a dramatic effect on people's ability to concentrate and their cognitive function.
Scheduling regular breaks is vital for the mood of the delegates and provides an ideal opportunity to network and discuss non agenda items in an informal way. Time the breaks strategically around your agenda items – escalate the most important topics to the first half of the meeting when everyone is most alert.
Does your meeting need any further enhancements like end of session drinks, grazing platters or canapés? These can also be very beneficial in achieving a social networking component or a simple gesture to show how much you value your attendees. Never forget to request dietary requirements from your delegates.
5. THE AGENDA
Perhaps the most important element - make an agenda and stick to it! At the end of the day, the job of the agenda is to address the question of - What do we need to cover in the time we have together?
Meetings should be as long as is needed to reach the outcomes required, but no longer. If you finish long before the scheduled closing time, adjourn. Conversely, do not allow the meeting to run overtime as people get edgy and grumpy.
Review the points and conclusions made so that everyone has a clear idea of what was achieved and what will happen from there. Ask people to send any additional ideas that weren’t discussed via email after the meeting. These can then be distributed to all attendees and discussed at a later date if needs be.
Once the meeting has finished, thank people for coming to the meeting and stress the positives rather than negatives of the meeting in closing.
6. THE LITTLE THINGS
Do not underestimate the value of the small things. It is the finer details that people remember and make them more likely to attend next time you need their input.
- Do your invites specify the correct address and scheduled start times? Is a concierge present meet, greet and direct your delegates?
- It's an unfortunate fact that many people may not come fully prepared for the meeting. Do you need to supply any note taking peripherals like pens & paper or a copy of the agenda.
- Be considerate of dietary requirements and ensure that catering is varied for events which last longer than a day (trust me, people will definitely notice that one, particularly if you don't do it)
- A registration table and name tags on arrival will allow people to more easily assimilate, and also provide an avenue for you to capture vital contact data from your delegates.
A little bit of time and energy spent in the right areas can have a huge effect on the outcome of your meeting or event. Wilkin Group spend time working with clients to ensure their meeting run smoothly and are memorable for all who attend them, whether they are a small team meeting or a multi-day conference.
Michael Sark is a Workspace Consultant at Wilkin Group whose role is to make organising productive meetings as painless as possible.
Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org