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Planning without chaos

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You’re days away from a big event, and you’re in charge. When you host planning sessions with your staff, stay calm and communicate clearly. Here’s how to keep everyone on the same page:

Reach closure. As employees interrupt each other with ideas, problems or objections, maintain order. Put each issue to bed before moving on.

Example: Your facilities manager raises concerns about parking. But before the group can address that topic, another employee cuts in to discuss transporting VIPs to the meeting. In your eagerness to decide how VIPs will arrive, you’re tempted to abandon the parking issue. Don’t. Make a judgment about parking (“Let’s let up to 50 cars park in our overflow lot”), write down the final action, identify who’s responsible and then proceed to VIPs.

Plug holes. Ask, “What are we forgetting?” and “What can go wrong?” Anticipate problems and fix them before it’s too late.

Stage a walk-through in which you rehearse with your team how people will arrive, take their seats and find restrooms, phones, snacks and sites for break-out sessions and meals. Identify potential bottlenecks and create handouts or signs as needed. You might also decide to post ushers to direct foot traffic.

Give a pep talk. End your last planning meeting on a high. Thank employees for their commitment to make the event a success. Praise individuals by name for their suggestions and contributions. Express confidence that with such a talented team in place, you expect everything to go well. This can motivate the group to withstand last-minute crises.

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