As Associations, our organizational growth is heavily dependent on our ability to regularly and effectively communicate with staff, volunteers, clients, members, and others about a wide variety of important subjects. Sometimes the best and most immediate delivery method for those communications is a phone call, email, or social media publication. Other times, in-person meetings are deemed more appropriate, and those are by far the trickiest of all communication methods to successfully orchestrate. While meeting planning in itself can be challenging, incorporating some simple tried and true methods to increase participation, engagement, and perceived value can help ensure your meeting’s ultimate success. Follow along for more information about how to get the most out of your meetings.
First things first… Don’t have meetings just to have meetings! Before planning a meeting, consider whether an in-person meeting is truly necessary and beneficial to all parties involved. There are meetings (such as those with your staff, boards, and committees) which require periodic in-person assembly, but for those instances where the meeting can be more flexible, consider the possibility of hosting a teleconference or video conference whenever possible. Time is invaluable and affording a way for people to make their best use of it will increase their likelihood of participation and enable you to deliver your message to a broader audience (those who may not otherwise be able to attend due to related travel, for example). With the right technology, video or webinar based meetings can be recorded and later conveniently shared with anyone who was unable to attend live virtually.
Once you have determined an in-person meeting is the best fit for your purposes and the audience you’re aiming to reach, it’s time to gather your key meeting players and get to planning. The internal and external connections you make and the conversations you have will in themselves be, and lead to, meetings about the proposed meeting. In fact, the time you spend collaborating on this may exceed the time spent at the actual meeting being planning, so buckle up and get ready!
The next step is to identify your meeting objective(s). This seems pretty basic, but the truth is that oftentimes this step goes without through consideration of desired final outcome. Defining an objective is more than just deciding what you’d like to discuss. A clearly defined objective means pinpointing in advance of the meeting what you are trying to achieve and communicate, and identifying which objectives will require feedback, a decision, idea generation, etc. All objectives identified should be relevant and useful to participants, so be sure to look at them from the standpoint of potential attendees. Consider the things they’ll want to learn, accomplish, and take-away.
After your detailed objectives are established, it’s time to plan the who, where and when! Create a meeting agenda to determine subject matter and determine how much time will be spent on each topic. Make sure that tasks are assigned to someone and that those tasks have deadlines.
Pick a date/dates based on the amount of time deemed necessary to discuss your topics. Find the venue best suited for your group, decide who’s invited, and send formal electronic or paper invitations out as far in advance as possible. Be sure you include the meeting’s designated point(s) of contact, the final agenda, materials related to discussion items, information on attire, a location map, parking and travel related information.
Although most of your meeting planning efforts are now complete, there are still some important details to focus on to ensure the meeting flows well and is executed in a manner that evokes participation and keeps everyone on track. Here are just some of the many ways to ensure overall meeting success:
- Monitor and guide meeting conversations. Implement positive methods to keep things on track, such as explaining meeting expectations in opening statements (no sidebar conversations, hold questions until the end, specify a time frame for discussion per subject, etc.).
- Stick to the agenda and take minutes that can later be distributed in summary.
- Start and end on time! Waiting for late arrivals inconveniences punctual attendees, so get started on time and others can quietly take a seat as they arrive and catch up on anything they missed afterwards. Meetings that run over schedule inconvenience attendees who have other post-meeting obligations. If necessary, you can always schedule a follow-up meeting.
- Make the meeting as interactive as possible and make sure to note any audience feedback/comments for follow-up.
- Plan a learning moment. Whether presented by the facilitator or directly peer to peer, a learning moment can be advantageous to attendees.
- In closing, summarize the discussion, key takeaways, any decisions made, and review next steps.
- After the meeting is over, reach out and follow-up with your attendees. You can send a summary of action items and decisions made. Short meeting satisfaction surveys can also be distributed as a way to get feedback and provide your organization with valuable insight as to what you may want to improve upon for future meetings.
Let’s face it… we’ve all walked away from at least one meeting wondering how that time might have been better spent, or wondering if the communicated message was worth the time invested. The decision to have a meeting in itself is important, and what you do within that meeting is going to determine the meeting’s ultimate value to both the organization and participants.
If you are considering planning a meeting, and need some professional advice, guidance, or hands-on assistance, give us a call. Your success is important to us, and we can help. We are The Solution!