When a meeting goes wrong, people remember it. The logistics involved are routinely underestimated, and company-wide costs are siloed and hard to measure. This short primer discusses the steps you can take to ensure your meetings will be smooth and successful.
Simple meetings are simple, right? Not much opportunity for things to go awry? Wrong! The logistics involved in a simple meeting can be complex, ironically. And if not done right, attendees will remember it for all the wrong reasons—and so will you. To have a successful simple meeting takes getting a lot of moving parts to work in complete coordination.
A meeting—any sort of meeting—can mean a variety of things. At its most basic, it’s a gathering of people to discuss an issue. But getting those people into one place to discuss the issue at hand is where the “simple” part of simple meetings can go off the rails. For instance, you could be called upon to plan:
• A yearly in-person Board meeting that requires directors to fly in from all over the country
• A meeting in the client’s town
• Kickoffs involving remotely-located outside sales personnel
• A meeting involving a matter so confidential it must be handled off-site
A simple meeting isn’t necessarily a small meeting.
As you can see, a simple meeting isn’t necessarily a small meeting. It can be, but a simple meeting is usually a meeting that isn’t handled by a professional event planner. This could be because the business in question is small, and the CEO of a two-person firm needs to handle his own arrangements. Or a simple meeting could occur at a large company, but the meeting itself could be handled by an executive assistant. Without the background skills and knowledge of a meeting professional at the helm, a simple meeting can get… complicated. Before someone coordinating a simple meeting can even get attendees in the room, it’s necessary to figure out where they will meet.
Location, location, location
Where the meeting will be held is the first, and probably most important, decision. If a venue is chosen that is too far from the airport, headquarters, or other activities, attendees will be forced to rent cars or take expensive taxis. It’s much better to choose a venue in a location central to the meeting’s activities and convenient to the largest percentage of attendees.
Don’t forget to make contingency plans
When planning a simple meeting you may have to choose the city, or that may be chosen ahead of time, and it is your task to choose the best venue in that city. In both cases, it will save time and trouble to consider the weather in your meeting location. What will you do if there is a blizzard during your February meeting in Chicago? Or a hurricane is heading towards Miami the same time as your August meeting? If you make contingency plans, and an unforeseen event does occur, you will be known as a hero!
Remember to ask for Group Discounts
Some airlines and ground transportation companies give group discounts—and remember a “group” doesn’t necessarily mean hundreds of people, you can qualify for a group with as few as 15 people. If someone isn’t experienced in planning meetings, it can be very easy to overlook this important cost-savings area.
Fuel Your Attendees
Now that your guests are at the venue there’s a not-so-basic basic thing to consider—what will people eat? Food and beverage are an important part of any meeting. And some hungry attendees might say it’s the most important part. When gathering people in a room for a few hours, or a few days, it’s imperative they be well-fed so they can concentrate on the task at hand. There is almost nothing that can turn a group of pleasant, eager-to-particpate people into a mob of cranky malcontents faster than inadequate food and beverages. This could mean not enough to eat and drink, nothing particularly delicious, or food that doesn’t meet attendees dietary needs. A simple meeting can be filled with vegetarians, vegans, the gluten-free, the lactose intolerant, those with severe food allergies or religious restrictions. And it can be difficult for a non-meeting professional to properly evaluate food and beverage quantities that both satisfy attendees and stay within budget.
Other things to consider beyond the basics
• Who from your company can sign contracts? A simple meeting can be budget-conscious or a major expenditure. It is important to consolidate contract-signing authority. Make sure that whoever is designated for this is regularly available to review and sign. You don’t want to miss out on any deadlines because your point person is on vacation for two weeks. It can be wise to designate a back-up signer.
• Wi-Fi and broadband—depending on the amount of attendees at the meeting, greater access could be needed.
• Audio/Visual: do you have the right sound system? Are projectors and screens needed? Do your presenters prefer a hand-held or lav mic?
• What happens if you don’t hit your numbers? Are cancellation policies rigid? On the other hand, what happens if you go over your numbers? Can the venue accommodate last-minute additions?
• Depending on the municipality and local laws, various venues require union workers, even for something as simple as plugging a cable. Will your budget support this?
What will you do if there is a blizzard during your February meeting in Chicago?
Obviously, there’s a lot that can go wrong, even in the simplest of meetings. It’s not so simple once you get down to it. That’s why it can be helpful to have an experienced meetings partner. A simple meeting might not require the resources of a dedicated event planner, but there are solutions out there to help anyone pull off a simple meeting in style.
Use an experienced meetings partner
Travel Leaders Group, with its deep experience in strategic meetings management, offers solutions like the Simple Meetings Optimizer for its clients. Designed to be used by non-meeting planners and meeting professionals, the Simple Meetings Optimizer is built for anyone who needs to arrange details for a smaller meeting or event. In just a few minutes, a user can arrange lodging, transportation, food and beverage, and send out schedules—even have a custom website for the meeting.
Considering all that can go wrong, even simple meetings are not that simple. It’s good to have meeting experts on your side to give you the tools and support you need.