Many posts have been written about conducting the perfect meeting. A couple of my favorites are here and here. But before we can conduct the perfect meeting, we have to plan it. Yep, today’s post is about logistics.
Some people shudder at meeting logistics. Call it corporate grunt work. Others figure it’s some administrative task and it should be left for others to figure out. But if you’ve ever been to a meeting with bad logistics, you know how important it is.
As a training pro, I’m reminded of it every time I plan a training session. I often say, “The mind can absorb only what the rear can endure.” Think about it. It’s true. Logistics are the first key to any meeting’s success.
Prior to the event
Logistics letter: When people need to travel for your event, consider drafting a single logistics letter providing information about how to get from the airport to the hotel, restaurants in the area, etc. Sending a dozen short emails with information is not an acceptable substitute. Yes, the information is disseminated but it’s a pain to organize! One page with everything on it – very simple and people will love you for it.
Pre-reading or pre-work? Tell participants in advance if they are to read or review something beforehand. Sending an article or PowerPoint prior is not an automatic directive to read something. Set a clear level of expectation.
Starting the event
Welcome: Prepare a welcome for the event. Even with groups that meet on a regular basis, the welcome can also serve as a way for the group to reconnect since their last meeting.
Agenda: Do not assume that everyone printed and brought a copy of the meeting agenda with them. Enough said.
Visitors: When you have people who travel in for your event, keep in mind they might not know the city or the building. The host location should sensitize themselves to their visiting colleagues and what might seem to be obvious questions.
Newbies: They might not be new to the location but newbies are people “new” to the meeting or event. For example, I used to attend a regular meeting where the executive team sat in the same seats. Creatures of habit I guess. When someone new joined the meeting, we would make sure they knew that.
Another important thing about newbies, they can be a valuable feedback source after the meeting. Consider reaching out to them for feedback – they have a fresh perspective you probably won’t get anywhere else.
During the event
Views: I recently went to a meeting where a large pole blocked my view of the speaker. Shame on me for sitting behind a pole. Shame on the event for putting a chair there in the first place.
Comfy chairs and working equipment: Uncomfortable chairs make people cranky. Cranky people do not make for good meetings. And, if you need equipment during the meeting, make sure it works. Have a backup plan in case it breaks down. Murphy’s Law is always an option at any meeting.
Wireless: This is the year 2012. Everyone wants access to WiFi. If you have visitors attending your meeting, set up a guest account and password. Tell people how to access WiFi prior to the meeting starting. Put the passcode on the agenda. My guess is bad / lack of wireless access rates #1 in the list of meeting complaints.
Refreshments: Despite what anyone might tell you, refreshments are important. I’m totally convinced refreshments tell people how much you care. For short meetings, a few beverages or at least bottles of water. Longer meetings, snacks and possibly meals need to be considered. Even if you decide not to provide refreshments and you personally can live with skipping lunch, please keep in mind not everyone is the same. They might have health issues they need to address by eating regularly scheduled meals.
After the event
End on time! I know this is also a sign of conducting a great meeting but I wanted to elaborate. As the host of a meeting, if you’re supposed to end at 5:00p … ending the meeting at 4:30p is okay. In fact, it’s possible that ending at 4:00p is okay if you’ve accomplished everything on the agenda. But if people are told the meeting will end at 5:00p and it ends at 1:00p … that looks like a planning failure.
Follow-up: Whatever was agreed upon during the meeting, needs to be done. I know this seems self-explanatory, but how many times have we seen really good ideas just get lost after a meeting?
I realize a lot of companies want to save a buck when it comes to meeting logistics. I don’t blame them. You don’t have to conduct every meeting at a Ritz Carlton to have great event. Most of things I mentioned have nothing to do with buying expensive stuff. It has to do with taking the time and energy and giving consideration for the meeting and the participants.
Image courtesy of Deirdre Honner