There are many steps required when planning a meeting, especially one that will take place away from the home office. Here’s what to consider to ensure things run as smoothly as possible.
Who are the attendees and how many?
Know your audience! Are these individuals who’ve attended other meetings, or are they first-timers who don’t know what to expect? Knowing how many will attend helps you establish several things. First, how large the meeting room needs to be. Hotels gauge meeting room rental cost on numerous factors, such as contracted food and beverages, size of room required and contracted guest rooms. Second, proper room set-up to ensure the message is properly received (conference and u-shape for interaction or classroom for presentation). Third, audio-visual needs vary, especially for large meetings of more than 50 people (always put yourself in the back of the room and then decide what audio/visual you need to assure a person sitting there can see and hear clearly). Also consider if you want a room with direct outside access and natural light or an internal meeting room.
Are attendees local or flying in?
If attendees are arriving from a distance of greater than a two-hour drive, you may want to consider holding a group room block at a nearby hotel. This will assure rested and attentive individuals during the meeting vs. people who are tired and stressed from driving. The same rule applies for flying into a destination for a meeting. Think of the “total time spent” to attend the meeting, not just the time “at” the meeting.
Schedule the agenda by the hour and day.
Plan the agenda with a small time buffer, especially around lunch. If starting early, always have something to eat and drink (continental breakfast as a minimum). Offer a mid-morning, 15-minute break, then at least an hour for lunch so attendees have time to actually relax. The ideal lunch scenario is to hold it in a different venue to escape the room they’ve been in all morning. If you can get outside to the fresh air, all the better. Schedule an afternoon break around 3 p.m. that includes some sweets and sodas to keep them awake and attentive for the next two hours (cookies, sodas, coffee, whole fruit and ice cream are all popular choices).
If using multiple rooms (breakouts), allow time to walk between the rooms. Whenever possible, schedule the room changes to coincide with the breaks.
What am I trying to accomplish by the end of the meeting?
Have a clear and measurable goal to achieve for the meeting attendees. Example of goals are: Sharing of information that impacts the company and its employees; review and strategize on financial plans, marketing initiatives and how they’ll generate a return on investment; or a pep talk to motivate the troops.
It’s always a good idea to incorporate some form of attendee feedback, both during the meeting and after, to assure the message is being received. How many times have you attended a meeting where the next day many of the attendees didn’t have a clue what its purpose was? Create a simple questionnaire form that takes less than five minutes to complete and is turned in at the end of each session (names optional); that will tell you if you’re on track.
What materials do I need to have for presentations and for the attendees?
A good rule of thumb is that you’ll need to use an audio system when speaking to a group of more than 50 people. If the speaker will be moving around at the front of the meeting, a wireless lavalieres is preferred. If standing in one location, a podium is preferred so everyone can see the speaker, and he or she has a place to put materials, a water glass and has something to rest against if needed.
Most presentations are now done via laptop and LCD projector onto a screen (usually six to 10-feet wide depending on size of group). This form of presentation can be creative, visual and stimulating with the addition of sound, much better than the boring overhead projector presentation of yesteryear.
Make sure you have plenty of handout materials that summarize your presentation, ideally in short, bullet point format, so attendees have something to take away with them and review at a later time.
The facility should furnish tables, chairs, linen, water and glasses at no additional charge.
Gary Collins is director of sales and marketing at Hyatt Vineyard Creek Hotel and Spa.