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Successful Meetings Start Here

Written by Maria Peot, Event Planner

As the Event Planner for First Business, I’m tasked with planning a variety of meetings and events. Some of these events, like our educational client seminars, are pretty “cookie cutter” – we’ve been doing them a long time and they follow a basic structure. These two-hour events are relatively simple to plan and execute, but require a high level of quality because they are client-facing. Others, like our company Sales Summit, are held less frequently and require several months of planning to ensure a successful and worthwhile event. And even though this event is internal, we need to ensure we are maximizing the day-and-a-half out of the office. When planning a meeting, whether for the first time or fifteenth time, there are a basic set of steps I like to follow to ensure the success of our client-facing and internal events.

Setting the Stage

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The most important step, which will guide you throughout the entire planning process, is to determine the purpose, goals, and expectations of the meeting. Key stakeholders should be involved in this initial step. Limit meeting objectives to between three and five focus areas; more may cause the meeting to become unproductive. Once the objectives are set, determine a budget for your event. This may be based on a previous year’s similar event or an estimate, but should be created prior to planning the details of an event. With set objectives and a budget, planning will be smooth sailing. Whenever you’re making a decision about the event, return to these objectives and the budget for guidance.

The Nitty Gritty Details

When planning a meeting, it can be easy to get lost in the logistics. Don’t! Return to your original objectives if you’re struggling to make a decision; this will keep things moving. Details are important, so make sure to be aware of them, check things like Banquet Event Orders carefully, and allow additional time for the “hiccups” that come along with planning any event.

When recently organizing a team-building activity for an internal event, I was presented with several unique options. Each company that submitted a proposal had its pros and cons, and in order to determine which was the best fit for our event, I returned first to our budget. One option was much more than we were willing to spend for this activity, so it could easily be eliminated. I then analyzed the remaining options against the overall goals and objectives of the event, and was pretty easily able to make a recommendation to our planning committee, and they took my recommendation (yay!).

Making the Meeting Memorable

People attend many meetings…wouldn’t it be great to make yours something they will remember for a long time? To do so, consider a “wow” factor such as an elaborate meal, team-building activity, or special keynote speaker.

If you go the route of a special keynote speaker, make sure to choose a speaker who brings a fresh perspective, yet won’t be offensive or off-putting to individuals in your group. Consider a facilitator to keep the meeting moving. The keynote speaker may also serve as a facilitator, but make sure to work out that detail in advance.

Plan time for audience participation. Allow meeting attendees to ask questions. Consider using something like a Catchbox, a wireless microphone in a foam box designed to be tossed from one participant to the next. Things like this can really keep people focused and ready to engage at any time.

Team-building activities for meeting attendees can be entertaining and educational. These are often met with resistance, but as long as you keep in mind physical elements that could be difficult for people with disabilities, most, if not all, attendees will come out of the team-building activity pleasantly surprised. Initially, all participants may not be comfortable with the activities, but given time and adequate instructions, they are likely to adjust and want to take an active role in the activity.

With these important basics, you’ll be well on your way to planning an effective, memorable meeting for your group. What tips do you have for planning successful and memorable meetings and events? I’d love to hear from you! And please introduce yourself when you attend one of our First Business events.

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