Here’s something many people won’t admit in the workplace – we don’t enjoy meetings. Some seem to have little point, some are downright boring, and others run completely off topic in an instant. But there are ways to make the most of a meeting or conference, particularly if we want people to stay engaged. Here are six ways to host a meeting or conference that actually succeeds in what we set out to accomplish.
1. Refreshments a must
If your meeting will exceed 30-45 minutes, and you have information you really want attendees to retain, start by offering coffee. Services like Associated Coffee provide this, as well as snacks, to office events where sustenance (caffeinated or otherwise) may be required. This can also be a draw for people who are on the fence about attending.
2. Create an outline
Meetings and conferences without an agenda inevitably fail. It’s not good enough to have a message; you need to decide what your meeting will include almost down to the minute. Organize an outline with the topics you want to cover and material you want to present, and do a dry run to ensure it flows logically.
3. Don’t let anyone off the hook
Inevitably, someone will come up with a reason as to why they cannot attend. Always offer the option of allowing them to sit in on the meeting via phone or video. This is also a special consideration you must make when relevant parties work remotely. Test all technology before sending them the details concerning how to join in remotely.
4. Get others on board with planning
If there are going to be a good number of people in attendance (think 10+), build a small committee of your own. Recruit one to three people to help you identify the location, any equipment needed, and to organize correspondence in advance of the meeting.
5. Create your budget
Are you holding your meeting at an off-site location? Have you determined a need for refreshments? Are you distributing physical documents or other materials? Do you need to hire a speaker? Identify every aspect of the meeting or conference which might come with an expense. From there, create a budget for each item.
6. Stay in control
By now, your outline should be refined enough that you can predict what is occurring during any given time during the meeting. Do not let anyone – including yourself – deviate from this. If someone begins talking too much, redirect the conversation back to your topic. Create an agenda prior to the meeting and send it to attendees, so they too have a clear idea of what will occur. If someone tries to address unrelated topics that aren’t on the agenda, inform them you can discuss it afterward.
Meetings may never be our favorite activity, but with the right attitude and planning, we can guarantee we have at least served an objective. Don’t let your attendees go hungry during long meetings, find solutions for remote parties to attend, and stick to the format and budget. This way, everyone can meet their goals together.