Helping you mobilise your inner resources to achieve your dreams

Fail to plan is to prepare to fail: how to plan a meeting effectively


Whether you’re working in a corporate environment, or you’re a business owner looking to talk to/address people en masse, there are times when you may be required to plan or hold a meeting.

personal organiserThere’s far more to a meeting than just choosing a date and time; if you haven’t considered common factors that have the potential to make the meeting a negative experience for one of your attendees, you may appear unprofessional and unorganised.

The saying, ‘if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail’ is very appropriate. I’ve put together some of the most common elements to consider when planning a meeting that you’re welcome to use as a checklist.

  • Clear, detailed objectives and outcomes: defining the purpose of the meeting answers so many other questions and stops a meeting from wandering or appearing superfluous. What issue(s) is/are at hand and what does the meeting hope to achieve?
  • Who needs to attend? It may be easy to think of managers or contacts directly affected by the meeting’s issue(s), but what about their staff – who else is likely to be affected? Is it better they also attend, than read about the outcome in the minutes?
  • Who can act as secretary? If you’re chairing a meeting and giving any sort of talk/presentation, it will be hard to also take meeting notes for the benefit of those not attending. Appoint someone else to take on this role.
  • How formal/informal will the meeting be, and how many people are attending? The answers to this will point towards suitable venues. boardroomIf the meeting is informal with a handful of attendees then some comfy chairs in your office will be fine; otherwise, a boardroom or outside venue may be necessary. Should your attendees sit at a round table so that everyone can be seen, or is this impractical? If the meeting is to invite creative ideas, consider alternative environments to a sterile boardroom. Shop around, if necessary, and compare how suitable different venues are in relation to the objectives and outcome(s) of the meeting.
  • Housekeeping: if your meeting will be longer than 90 minutes then a break should be incorporated and refreshments offered. How cold/warm is the room; will the sun be in anyone’s eyes? Can everyone, wherever they are in the room, hear the information and see any visual aids? Do you need to hire any equipment? Are there any special needs or accessibility issues?
  • Playing host: Do you need to book a speaker? If so, what are their travelling arrangements – do they need picking up from the local train station or directions to the venue?
  • Invites: it may seem obvious, but with so much to plan, don’t forget to send out invites to all attendees with enough notice that they can accommodate the meeting – the earlier the better.
  • Have you given out an agenda in good time? Too early and people will forget to prepare for the meeting themselves; too late, and they may not have had time to form an informed opinion on the issue(s) at hand.

Appropriate planning keeps the meeting on course and ensures everyone is comfortable enough to share views, record information and adhere to the proposed outcome. Conversely, with no planning, attendees can be so distracted by the issues and problems I mention in my checklist that they miss the point of the meeting.

As I said last week, time is precious and shouldn’t be wasted. Successful planning helps any meeting to be effective for everyone in attendance, as well as those who are not.

Next week, I’ll drill down into the importance of an agenda and what it should contain. If you’d like to know more about executive coaching or career coaching in the meantime, contact me on 01302 220331.


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