By Ann J. Boehme
There are various types of corporate meetings, in different settings, with specific goals and objectives for each. The first major steps require understanding the scope of duties and tasks needed to successfully plan and format the meeting, and building upon your skills to fulfill those duties.
Who plans meetings?
From the administrative assistant to the corporate president, everyone has some involvement in planning corporate meetings. Whether planning meetings is the full-time or part-time responsibility of a job, the meeting itself must be flawless, as it professionally represents both the sponsors and the corporation.
What are the responsibilities?
As a corporate meeting planner, you are expected to perform a variety of tasks. The range of assigned duties makes a statement about the diversity of the meeting planner role. It is a widely accepted fact that anyone who plans meetings juggles multiple responsibilities and works long hours to accomplish their tasks. The meeting planner is organized, energetic, and creative, develops strong interpersonal relationships, has excellent written and oral communications skills, and — most importantly — must become unflappable.
Duties and tasks
- Identify and plan to meet the needs, goals, and objectives of your meeting.
- Develop agenda or meeting formats.
- Research, select, and assess sites and facilities.
- Arrange transportation.
- Coordinate activities of staff who are assigned to the meeting.
- Recruit and train staff and ad hoc personnel.
- Create workable budgets or prepare to work within specified budgets.
- Develop timelines.
- Negotiate travel arrangements, hotel contracts, and prices.
- Negotiate with all related vendors (transport companies, destination management companies, tour guides, special-event companies, and audio-visual (AV) companies).
- Locate printers and provide mailers.
- Plan food and beverage functions.
- Interact with speakers and VIPs.
The following list includes some of the most important responsibilities and skills that you need as a meeting planner:
- Be cooperative and detail oriented.
- Function as a negotiator and problem solver.
- Manage conference finances.
- Understand hotel operations.
- Plan effective menus.
- Work effectively with AV companies.
- Be computer literate.
- Entertain VIPs and international guests.
- Take groups abroad and learn protocols.
- Be determined to get the job done.
How is an attendee notified of a meeting?
Corporate meetings are usually mandated. Invitations or meeting notices might be forwarded via letter, memorandum, or newsletter by using postal service, an internal corporate system, fax, or e-mail.
Attendance at association meetings is generally solicited by direct mail that includes a flyer or brochure noting all pertinent data and requiring attendees to return a fee and a completed registration form. Even educational programs or seminars charge a fee for attendance, although it might be nominal for association members.
Private seminar and meeting companies are in business to make a profit. They solicit via direct mail, telemarketing, broadcast, fax, the Internet, e-mail, or whatever marketing strategy works well and maximizes attendance at a meeting.
What kinds of meetings are there?
There are various kinds of meetings and meeting designs. Before you consider which meeting format to use, the first step is to identify and understand the event you are planning.
Make sure that the meeting format fits the meeting goals and objectives, and keep the format in mind as you select the city, site, and specific meeting rooms.
The following list identifies some of the popular meeting types and formats:
- Board meeting Composed of corporate board members, this might be held regularly in the corporate headquarters or designated boardroom. Company-specific policies prevail for such meetings.
- Sales conference This might be called to announce or kick off a sales product or sales period, such as a quarterly sales meeting, or to assess a past sales period and offer rewards and commendations.
- Management meeting A corporate meeting that is held for executives, sometimes in response to a corporate problem.
- Corporate retreat This might be held for any number of reasons, including corporate policy reinforcement, changes, or performance assessment.
- Awards ceremony To reward new research and development, outstanding product sales, a successful fundraiser, or capital development achievements, or as a special morale booster.
- Holiday party Usually held for corporate executives, their clients, and their services vendors.
- Annual meeting A shareholders' meeting for a corporation or the annual membership meeting for a trade association.
- Product launch Introduces and promotes a new product to the professional community or the consumer.
- Seminar A meeting designed to provide information, with discussion about that information. Usually an interactive meeting with attendee participation and feedback.
- Workshop A course that is designed to offer practical applications through demonstration. It might be a hands-on workshop designed to improve a skill or a course that provides a setting for practice in a particular area.
- Conference A meeting designed for discussion, consultation, and exchange of information; usually composed of general sessions and smaller group meetings to find facts and solve problems.
- Convention A large gathering of association members who convene for a specific purpose; usually composed of general sessions, committee meetings, and workshop sessions.
- Incentive meeting Rewards for high-performance employees, distributors, or customers. As a business motivational tool, they are thought to improve performance, and to motivate consumers and non-sales employees as well.
- General assembly or plenary session A gathering of all participants to listen to a keynote speaker and one or more presenters for a specific period of time — used at least once during a conference.
- Concurrent sessions Smaller sessions presented at the same time on different topics that are of interest to portions of the overall audience. Breakout sessions differ from concurrent sessions in that the topics of the small meetings are the same.
- Training sessions On-site, highly interactive sessions that last from one day up to several weeks. Sessions are led by professional trainers with specific expertise in one or more topics, and are designed to accomplish specific, targeted goals.
- Team-building events Provide various challenges and specially constructed activities to demonstrate the importance of teams to select groups of employees. The goal is to develop strong teams for the benefit of the organization's goals. Activities can range from going white-water rafting to leading blindfolded team members through obstacle courses. All involve working as a team against another team for a specific outcome.
- Fundraisers Designed for donors to any number of philanthropic endeavors, these are traditionally black-tie galas in upscale facilities such as museums, concert halls, theaters, or opera houses. Examples of other fundraising events include golf and tennis tournaments.
- Special events Examples include theme dinner parties; group tours; before, during, or after-meeting entertainment (spouses and children included) on the premises or in theaters, on yachts, at the opera, at a concert, in museums, or at other historical venues; and golf or tennis tournaments.
Alternative meeting options
Teleconferencing allows information to be sent from a major meeting site to one or more downlink sites. The transmitting site can be corporate headquarters, a hotel, a conference center, or another facility with satellite or fiber-optic equipment.
Some hotel chains now offer tele-suites for rent on an hourly basis. Several executives in one location can connect to another tele-suite in a distant city for a simulated roundtable meeting.
Videoconferencing is a cost-effective way to disseminate current information from one destination to key players in different locations via one- or two-way video transmittal.
For group communications, one-way audioconferencing transmits voice only from one site to one or more other sites. Two-way audioconferencing requires advance planning and a moderator.
Advance planning pays off
Take the time to plan your meeting in advance. Figure out exactly what type of meeting and setting is appropriate, and be clear about the meeting goals. The time and effort that you spend planning your meeting details can save you and your team money, time, and frustration in the future.
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).