10 Tips for Non-Meeting Planners … Faced with Planning a Meeting

Many times the office manager, project manger or someone else in the office will be directed to plan a meeting or event. It’s not their job, per se, but it’s important that things run smoothly. Following these tips and being organized really helps make the job a lot easier and less stressful.

1. SWOT And 5Ws

If you don’t know what your attendees are doing or even who they are, how do you even begin to start planning? Before starting any planning, pull key stakeholders together to find out the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (SWOT) of the meeting or event that you’re planning. Having the data gathered in advance will help guide all of your planning and help keep your goals focused.

Next, outline the who, what, where, when and why. This will determine how large of a facility is necessary, what kind of facility, what time of year, etc. Most importantly, it will highlight why the meeting or event is taking place. Clearly understanding why the group is convening will guide the planning process while deciding what guests will do and how long they will need to do it. For example, you wouldn’t plan a networking event and have all of the guests sit down in rows facing the front of the room theater style…

2. Bacon Makes Everything Better

Clearly understand the budget before starting. What is most important to the key stakeholders makes deciding if cheese and crackers will be served or if bacon be added to the breakfast buffet. Knowing the budget and what is most important will save hours of time going back and forth with menu adjustments, and will also help during the onset of planning to determine what meeting space is not going to fit in your budget.

3. X Marks The Spot!

Select a location based on the goals and the needs of the meeting. A venue that holds 75 people would not be conducive for a 150-person conference with audio-visual needs. Making a list of the hot-button items that are most important is an easy way to begin the process. Consider proximity to attendees, parking, comfort of the space, audio-visual capabilities, and food and beverage options as a starting point. If the meeting is in a city you are not familiar with, the convention and visitors bureau in that city is an amazing and free tool to help you with planning.

4. Who’s Talking About What And When?

Setting the agenda early on will help guide the length of time that a space is needed. Can all of the goals be accomplished in one day or will it take two days and a dinner offsite? Setting the agenda early on will also help with guiding food and beverage selections thus impacting the budget. What day is the speaker available? Will the meeting agenda be planned around a keynote speaker?

5. Becoming Nick Burns, Your Company’s Computer Guy

Projecting onto a screen from the rear (so the equipment isn’t in the front) and using a standard projector can drastically change the layout of the room. Will a wireless microphone or a hard-wired microphone be needed? Wireless lapel microphones? Will you need a sound tech to stay onsite? Try to keep transitions from one speaker to the next tight so attendees don’t get bored.

6. That Was Easy!

Registration for a meeting or event is the first impression of what’s to come. Set the tone for a seamless process from the onset with a simple process for registration, clear necessary details and a phone number for any questions. When your process is set, have a few people not involved with the project test it out to work out any kinks before allowing the attendees to register.

7. Touching Base

Communicating to attendees is often the most overlooked part of planning. Don’t make the invitation the only communication with the attendees. Remind them of details approximately one week out with an email or direct them to a website with more details. Always provide a phone number for follow up questions.

8. The Devil Is In The Details

After details have been decided upon, spend the time to put together a detailed timeline and make notes of important points that should not be forgotten. This can be as simple as a one-page outline or as detailed as a 15-page minute by minute, play by play. There is no such thing as too much detail! Share this document with all involved in the event, and sit down to discuss the details a week out from the event so there is enough time to make any last minute changes. Print out a copy of this document and keep it in hand the entire event. Write notes about what is going well and what could be changed in the future.

9. Who’s Got Your Back?

Find someone in the office to come help at the meeting or event to keep yourself free to make important decisions. If you are tied up at registration or running the PowerPoint presentation, you won’t be able to address any other issues onsite. This will also keep you free to look critically at what’s going on and see if anything should be adjusted such as the temperature, microphone levels and timeline.

10. It’s Not Over Until it’s Really Over

The meeting is not done when the day is done. Following up with attendees and a post-meeting check in are the best ways to ensure future success. Always check in with key stakeholders after the event for feedback. They will appreciate it and they will provide the best feedback. Make detailed notes for future meetings and events. Pull these notes out when you start the next SWOT.

Allison Beers is the owner of Events North in Traverse City. Eventsnorth.com