Are you planning your first business meeting and want to ensure you cover all your bases? Don’t run around like a crazed wedding planner. Have a strategy and stick to it.
First, set the date and establish the agenda. It’s important to prepare the agenda well in advance. You want to ensure everyone has a chance to look it over to get prepared and give you feedback on areas that might need to be included. In preparing an agenda, envision the purpose of the meeting. How long will it last? How many speakers/presentations will there be? How will the meeting progress? How will you reach your goal for a successful and productive meeting?
Second, set a time for the meeting to begin AND end. It is imperative that you keep the meeting on schedule. You can always go back and revisit unresolved issues as time permits.
Third, find out who needs to be invited to the meeting. Identify people who must be there to accomplish the purpose of the meeting and include people you may need to invite because of their status. Make this step easier by setting up a meeting notification procedure whether is by email or regular mail. Attach the agenda to the note so everyone is on the same page from the start. Be specific if there is homework or advance preparation for the attendees. Ask all participants to respond to ensure everyone has received the communication.
Finally, pay attention to the details and logistics. This is where a checklist pays off:
Selecting the room and accommodations
Where is the meeting being held? Is it readily accessible (wheelchairs or disability access, comfortable room with plenty of seating?
Check the temperature. There is nothing worse to dampen a meeting than a comfortable room.
Identify where the restrooms are. Locate a place where people can store briefcases and luggage should they be traveling to attend.
Make sure there are plenty of seats with room to spread out, especially if this is a “working” meeting.
Will you need a translator/s?
Will you need AV and presentation equipment at the meeting? Will the presenters need the same? (Check about microphones and podium preferences.) Be sure to find out this information well in advance so you can make the appropriate arrangements.
Test all equipment prior to the start of the meeting. If at all possible have a techie ready to handle any snafus that might occur.
Have name badges, pencils, pads of paper, and other necessary meeting supplies available.
Are documents required? Will there be handouts and materials that need to be prepared?
Have them done well in advance in the event of errors.
Have a person sitting outside the room for the check-in.
Distribute materials or documents at check-in and register attendees.
Secure someone to take notes before the meeting starts.
If you plan to tape the proceeding tell everyone up front that you are recording.
Have water, juice, coffee, and tea available. If the meeting covers mealtime, you will also need to provide food. Make the arrangements in advance and have them delivered to the meeting so as not to interrupt the flow. Keep special dietary requests in mind. It’s always best to order a couple of vegetarian items.
Depending upon the length of the meeting one or more breaks may be required. Be specific about the time allotted for the break and resume the meeting on time whether all the participants have returned or not.
No matter how well prepared you are there is always some unanticipated problem. Don’t let it get you flustered. Roll with the flow. If you have used these guidelines, you can feel confident that you have done your homework. If something does go wrong, be ready to fix it quickly and quietly. And remember, anything can happen even to the most seasoned meeting planner. Use the event as a building block to future successful meetings.