How to Plan an Effective Meeting



By Olivia Orman

When thinking of your most recent company meeting, what is the first thought that comes to mind?  Perhaps it is where the conference took place, the presentation given, or whether it kept you engaged or distracted.  Maybe you already knew in the beginning whether it would be interesting or dreadful. 

These are a few of the many factors that impact how business associates perceive corporate meetings.  It is challenging to plan a conference that captures each professional’s attention, and it is virtually impossible to please everyone.  However, there are measures you can take as a meeting planner to create a more positive response among your business’ employees.  Follow these tips, and your next meeting will be on the way to greater success.

Identify the five W’s

The first phase in planning a meeting comes from determining the five W’s: Who, what, when, where, and why.  These are the foundational aspects that will lead to the more complex stages of planning.  If you are planning your meeting for your own company, you have already established who your audience is.  Thus, that is already taken care of. 

Before delving into the more specific details, you must understand your meeting objectives.  Are you aiming to merely present information?  Do you want your business associates to brainstorm for a specific project?  Or do you want them to find a solution?  Knowing your intention for the conference will make the presentation and instruction more meaningful and relevant to the employees listening in.

Considering the timeframe of your meeting and a couple of potential venues is also essential in the early planning stages.  Ultimately, the day and time you hold your conference is based on the facility and deadlines, but it is beneficial to have a couple of ideas in terms of time and location early on.

The last W you must think about is the why.  This is slightly more complex than the what, as it goes back to your company’s mission statement and values.  Ask yourself: Why am I holding this meeting?  Will it help my company’s product or service come closer to the company’s mission?  Will I deliver the information in a valuable way that will help my associates sell a more refined product or service to our customers?

Print out a meeting planning checklist

Before taking any preparatory action, print out a checklist with all of the tasks you must do leading up to your meeting and set a time table for when you want to complete them.  This will ensure you complete every necessary step in a timely manner.  Harvard Business Review came up with a brief list that contains all of the key steps in coordinating an effective meeting.  Establishing an organized system in the pre-planning process will make the actual planning more efficient, thus giving you more time to focus on assembling and practicing your presentation.


Start crossing off your checklist

Now that you have identified the five W’s and have your meeting planning checklist, it is finally time to bring your ideas and objectives to life.  Using the five W’s you determined in the pre-planning stage is a great way to make concrete decisions.  

For example, if you intend to give a PowerPoint presentation and have your business associates take notes, select a venue that is equipped with audio-visual and a large conference table.  If the meeting is focused on more of a discussion and critical thinking, maybe gravitate towards renting a facility such as a restaurant or winery.

Once the reservation is made, begin sending out invitations to your employees.  Or, if this is a mandatory function, provide an immediate alert so your associates can plan ahead.  Receiving a count for who will attend sooner, rather than later, helps you tailor the facility to your company’s attendance and maximize the space.

In the midst of planning the date and time of the meeting, along with managing the attendance, you must also plan your presentation.  Giving your objective more thought throughout the whole process, rather than solely towards the end, gives you more time to develop your message and make it significant and worthwhile.  Your employees will respond to the amount of effort you put in; this is easily seen through their body language.

Finalize all of the details

After all of the tasks are crossed off of your checklist, verify each assignment’s completion – line by line.  You may find it helpful to create a couple of columns that show when you began each task, when you completed them, and when they went in review.

This includes contacting the facility about your rental and giving them a final headcount, sending out a final notice about your meeting to make it known and clear, and running through your presentation a couple of times.  Though it will take additional time and effort, adhering to this process will lessen the likelihood of rushing through last minute adjustments and changes; hence giving you the means to polish your presentation more.

Confirming all of your actions is especially important when planning a corporate meeting.  The thorough attention to detail establishes greater credibility to your authority and professionalism. And your business associates may even gain greater respect and appreciation for you and the company.  Consistent review makes a meeting that much more effective.

Planning an effective meeting can appear daunting at a glance, considering how it is impossible to satisfy all of your associates at once.  By understanding the purpose for holding your meeting, making the information relevant and digestible, and being punctual with your checklist and preset deadlines, you will create a more positive response from your conference.  Implement these steps into your own meeting planning techniques, and your objectives and messages will continue to reach your professionals.


Olivia Orman is a contributing writer from St. Louis.


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