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Need to plan the perfect meeting? Where do you start?

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Question: “I have been asked to help arrange a business meeting/workshop in another state. I know that I will need to depend on someone else at that location for assistance. Whom do I work with?  What types of things do I need to do to make this a successful meeting? What things should I pay attention to?” — Anonymous

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Nancy November 3, 2008 at 11:17 am

All of these are very good thoughts, and I just have one more to add to the list. Always have a pad of paper and a pen to take notes. Something will always come up that nobody expected. Take notes so you can include this in the plan for the next time. Somebody will have questions that you cannot answer immediately. Note them down so you can get the information to them later. Also be sure to note things that went well so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel the next time.

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Leotis October 27, 2008 at 1:12 pm

The first two things you need are an objective and a budget.

1. What is the reason (goals and objectives) of the meeting?
2. Do you have the resources necessary to achieve your goals?

3. Identify all stakeholders in the meeting (attendees, organization leaders, facilities professionals, etc.), and set priorities.

4. Have you sought input and commitment from our staff?

5. Check for holidays when choosing a date for your meeting and avoid those days. Make sure you check to make sure that there is no holiday or major event taking place the same day of your meeting in your meeting site.

6. Investigate the conference centers, resorts, and hotels in the area. Narrow you list down to who will provide for your “basic” needs. Ask about their staff and support that they provide.

7. Make a list of the amenities, availability of dates, room rates, and general information these sites have to offer. Your list (spreadsheet) can help you match your needs helping you to choose the site suitable for your needs.

8. Ask about billing procedures. What method of payment do they prefer or require: check or credit card? Will they bill you later? What does their master account look like and what goes on it?

9. Negotiate everything and anything. You will be surprise at some of the complimentary stuff you might get or discounts.

10. ALWAYS do an on-site visit before you obligate your company funds and make sure that you ask about any plan construction work or other events they may have schedule during the time frame of your meeting.

Remember you should have only one contact person to work with and make sure that the communication is flowing in both directions. You should have a policy of “no surprises.” Go online and get or develop a checklist that you are comfortable working with. Make sure that all the key people are kept up to date as to what is going on.

Oh if your budget permits get a Professional Meeting Planner.

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Jocelyn October 27, 2008 at 10:40 am

Hotels are usually very helpful because they do this type of thing every day. Work closely with them and it will be easier. Just be sure you make a checklist to be sure the few days before you and they are all set, like the way the tables are arranged to see maybe a projector screen. They will probably have this types of things and set them up for you, like screen etc. You will also need a have a check in table where you have packets or whatever you need handed out and attendance taken. Usually drink tickets are handed out then as well. You should also plan to maybe take a 10 minute break for stretching and bathroom. If you are working alone, I would definetly plan to have at least another person there to help you manage the plan and take care of things as they come up. Name tags if there are people there who are just meeting for the first time. Also, if this is an annual event you may want a questionaire so next time you can improve the presentation and include a pre-posted envelope or leave time at the end for them to complete and hand in as they leave. I the last traing meeting they had everyone introduce themselves to strangers around them and give at least one other person their business card and vise vs. to create networking amoungst the attendee’s. Hope that helps

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Kim October 24, 2008 at 3:01 pm

I have arranged several out of state. I was lucky enought to go with but all has to be arranged before hand. the event planner at the hotels are usually very sharp. they will walk thru everything with you down to the very last detail.

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Theresa October 24, 2008 at 2:03 pm

If you cannot visit the venues, you will need to ask for brochures, pictures and a couple of references from other clients. You will need to work with the Sales Manager. Have only one contact for everything you are requiring. Working with too many people at your venue, will get confusing and things might get forgotten.

Things to ask:
Prices – what is included, what is extra, i.e., copies, conference calls, AV needs, wireless, etc.

If you are having it at a hotel, will they give you a group rate since you are having your meeting there? Does it provide shuttle transportation to and from the airport? Is wireless free for guests staying at the hotel or is there a fee? Is there room service, a restaurant on-site, etc.

If you are having it at a place other than a hotel, is transportation provided from the airport, hotel, etc. for those attending the meeting?

If you have any special dietary needs, will they be able to accommodate?

Look at the type of meeting you plan to have—ask about special set-ups, needs, etc. At our recent meeting, which was three days, the meeting started with the entire company in the morning of the first day and then broke down into three sessions. The hotel was great about turning the rooms around quickly so we didn’t lose any valuable meeting time.

Make sure to ask who would be available to help you if there was a problem.

Ask about room temperatures—the was a HUGE item at our last meeting. If the room is too cold or hot—can it be adjusted to accommodate the majority of the participants.

Read the contract—some contracts will state if you need to cancel—there is a cancellation fee of up to $10,000.

Keep great notes of what you have done and who you have spoken with.

Good luck!

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Kristie October 24, 2008 at 2:02 pm

Where is the meeting going to be held? If you are holding the meeting at a hotel, work closely with the coordinator at the facility. They have experience working in just that situation and can be extremely helpful with suggestions, catering ideas, dinner ideas, etc. Just be sure that you are on-top of everything and approving everything before plans are finalized. I tell my staff that when working in this type of situation, especially for the first time with a new vendor, it is okay to “over-communicate”. Follow every phone call up with a written email to document plans that have been made. Place calls weekly leading up to the meeting to ensure that everything is still on schedule to roll and no snags have come up at the hotel. Also, reconfirm everything 48 hours and 24 hours before your event line by line. Especially if you are expected to include evening events/transportation/lodging with these meetings. It is a lot to coordinate, but it does become easier the more you do it.

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