By Ann J. Boehme
Setting the goals and objectives of a meeting and providing a meeting agenda are the backbone of a successful meeting. The goals and objectives can be any of the following:
- To train.
- To inform or educate.
- To explore a concept.
- To introduce something or someone.
- To come to a decision.
- To motivate or support.
- To develop or improve.
- To solve problems.
- To learn how to make a profit.
Corporations have unique policies and procedures, and most train their new sales or executive employees to perform in accordance with those policies. Some training programs are lengthy and might be scheduled for 30 days or more in a conference setting. Other programs are held in remote locations or in the city where the new employees work. These are sometimes called orientation meetings.
When there is a research and development team, many corporations elect to discuss the new developments and plans off corporate premises, in a think-tank environment such as a remote conference center.
When quarterly sales are down, so are spirits. Some meetings are designed to boost morale and should happen in an upbeat educational environment.
Know the purpose
To create a successful meeting, you must understand the meeting's purpose. You might want to ask your employer, the program sponsor, the developer, or the program chair the following questions:
- Why do you want this meeting?
- What do you want to accomplish?
Write a few lines describing the meeting goals and the desired outcome of the meeting, and review these with the program chair. When you are both on the same page, you can proceed.
It is also appropriate to follow up with more detailed questions, such as:
- What is the target date for this meeting?
- How many days will the meeting last?
- Where will the meeting take place?
- What is the meeting style or format?
- How much space does the meeting require?
- Has this meeting been run before? What were the results?
- How many people will attend?
- Who is the target audience?
- What is the budget?
- Is this a rate-sensitive group?
- What quality hotel or facility is desired?
- What is the maximum room rate to be considered?
- How should we contact the prospective audience?
- Who will produce the invitations or solicitations?
- Will there be printed educational materials?
- Will there be a printed program for distribution?
- Who are the speakers?
- How should they be retained?
- What are the audio-visual (AV) requirements?
- How many food and beverage events will there be?
- Will spouses and families attend?
- Will there be special activities for attendees? For attendees and families? For spouses and families?
- Who will pay for their activities?
- Who will be responsible for their transportation costs?
- Will there be a fee for attendance?
Use the information that you gather from the answers to form two valuable lists. The first list should include all that must be accomplished and the targeted time for accomplishing these tasks; this is your program timeline. Use the rest of the information to put together a second, comprehensive list to develop meeting specifications.
Create program timeline
Your program timeline serves as your guide. The timeline should list any and all tasks that are connected with the preparation, development, and execution of the meeting. Make it as comprehensive as possible for each meeting. You will generally use the timelines internally, perhaps sharing and discussing them with your meeting chair or supervisor and staff.
Develop meeting specifications
You are now ready to develop your meeting specifications, also known as meeting specs. You'll want to forward these meeting specs to hotels and other outside facilities as requests for proposals (RFPs) that will include the meeting data you accumulated. These facilities will want to know your formalized meeting needs so that they can bid to provide you with services.
Your meeting specs might be simple for a dinner meeting or a holiday party, or more complex if you are planning a full one- or two-day meeting.
Give the hotels an opportunity to check their schedules for the available dates, your price range, as well as the meeting room space that you require. Be sure to let them know if you are flexible with date options or not. Always remember to consider the date of your request. If your meeting dates are close at hand, you might have difficulty obtaining the needed space. Fortunately, small meetings are easier to accommodate into a space that opens when another group cancels.
For more complex meetings, you might want to prepare a cover sheet with the information noted earlier, and develop a comprehensive meeting agenda and time schedule, outlining the following information:
- Number of setup days (prior to meeting).
- Number of tear-down days (after meeting).
- Exhibit requirements.
- Registration requirements.
- Sleeping rooms for VIPs.
- Hospitality suite requirements.
- Number of staff rooms required.
- Number and description of all food functions.
- Number and description of special activities.
- Transportation requirements.
- Bell service for delivery of amenities.
- Complete AV setup.
- Handling of deposits.
- Master account setup.
- Requests for disclosure of renovation plans.
- Requests for disclosure of competitive companies that might be scheduled in a facility at the same time of your meeting.
The more comprehensive your meeting specifications, the less opportunity there is for error or omission of an important meeting requirement. As your meeting progresses, keep notations about your progress as reference for your next meeting.
Specific plans bring success
Establishing specific goals and objectives can help you achieve success in creating corporate functions. From determining the need for an event to setting the meeting agenda, you need to determine the best structure for it to be effective. The better you plan, the better the chances are that the participants can focus on the content and substance of their work together.
About the author This article was adapted from Planning Successful Meetings and Events (a Take-Charge Assistant Book) by Ann J. Boehme. It is used by permission of the publisher, the American Management Association (AMA).