How to make the most of your meetings
What makes a good meeting? What frustrates you about a bad meeting? Take a moment to think about both as we explore the key attributes of what makes a productive meeting, and what’s a near complete waste of time for some.
We’ve all experienced this before. Productive and effective meetings leave participants energised with the mutual feeling and recognition that we’ve accomplished something significant. In useless meetings, everyone seems to drone on forever and no one seems to get to the point, and everyone leaves wondering why they were there in the first place.
In order to run an effective meeting and get the most out of your time, try to aim for the following two things:
1. Achieve an objective
Meetings should be called with a purpose and objective in mind. You need to be clear about this from the outset and make sure this is communicated to all participants as well prior to the meeting taking place. Ask yourself the question “At the end of the meeting, I want everyone to…” This will clearly state the end result and outcome, which allows follow on planning of meeting contents, as well as determining who needs to be invited and present during the meeting.
Some example outcomes could be:
- We want everyone to reach consensus on a decision
- We want to brainstorm and generate ideas for problem solving
- We want participants to present status reports and update everyone else
- We want to communicate an idea or proposal to meeting participants
- We want to coordinate planning for an event or activity
2. Minimise everyone’s time
We never seem to have enough hours each day at work, so it makes sense to try to minimise everyone’s time in meetings. Time spent during meetings and away from daily work tasks means time wasted not doing work. Multiply this by the total number of meeting participants and the hours quickly add up.
If your meeting objectives have already been well thought out and communicated, the battle for an effective meeting is already half over. Be focused and ruthless on achieving your objectives, and drop anything superfluous which doesn’t add value or help to achieve that desired outcome.
A meeting should always have an agenda. This will help to ensure you cover only what’s needed and to ensure everyone stick to the relevant activities to help this come about. It will also act as a sign post to keep the meeting running on target and on time. Consider the following questions when you draft your meeting agenda:
- What are your absolute key priorities for this meeting?
- What results do you wish to accomplish?
- Who needs to participate for the meeting to be successful?
- What order of sequencing will you adopt to cover all topics?
- How much time do we need to spend on each agenda item?
- When is the best time for the meeting to take place?
- Where is the best place to host the meeting?
Before you run a meeting at an external venue there are certain things you need to ensure which need to be in place, prior to your and all attendees arrival.
Here are two sets of checklists to run through, the first concerning general facilities of the venue, and the second specific equipment needs in order to run a successful meeting.
General facilities for the venue:
- How many computer hookups are there and what form are they in? i.e. VGA, HDMI, etc.
- Does the venue have WiFi capability? If not what cabled connections are there and how convenient is it to connect in terms of location?
- Are there sufficient electrical power outlets for all equipment? Where are the outlets situated and how will the cable run look?
- Does the venue have a built-in sound system? How easy and intuitive is it to operate?
- Is the room sound proofed? Are there other rooms in the same building? What’s the likelihood of noise interruptions (both ways)?
- Are there sufficient privacy guards in place in the room? i.e. curtains, blinds and shades, etc.
- Are there maintenance staff on hand if we experience any fixed equipment issues on the day?
- Who is responsible for lost, stolen or damaged equipment?
- How accessible is the venue for planning and setup purposes prior to the event?
- What are the housekeeping rules? i.e. location of toilets, fire exits and evacuation procedures, etc.
Specific equipment needs:
- Is there a high quality overhead projector?
- Do remote controls work well for all equipment? i.e. projector, sound system, etc.
- Do we need other screens and audio visual equipment? i.e. DVD players, video conferencing equipment, etc.
- Are there wireless microphones available? If more than one have they been checked for cross feed interference?
- Does the facility have a computer for use already or are we expected to bring our own? Who is responsible for loading all presentations prior to the sessions of the day?
- Do we have a good mouse to control the computer and a laser pointer to highlight points of interest during presentations?
- How does the lighting controls work? Is someone familiar with the switch groupings?
- Have you checked the sound system to ensure volume and clarity for a packed audience?
- Do we still need conventional non-digital presentation and collaboration aids? i.e. flip chart, post it notes, etc.
- Do we need to provide note taking stationery for all delegates?
These twenty checks - ten for the venue and facilities and ten more for the equipment required - are in no way exhaustive. In general it always pays to think ahead and check off likely needs ahead of an important meeting.Where possible, plan for contingency, i.e. have a backup computer in case issues develop with the primary one.
Planning a large scale meeting or conference isn’t difficult nor complicated if you approach it with the proper care, planning and organisation such a large project deserves.
From determining who your audience is, to selecting a theme and title for the conference, through to making all necessary financial arrangements and choosing your venue and facilities, here are five top tips to help you plan and execute that perfect event.
1. Determine your audience
Your business audience should determine the scale and scope of your upcoming conference or large scale meeting. Consider the types of issues, topics and programme of interest to them. As you reach out in your communications you’ll also be able to get a good feel and estimate of likely conference attendance numbers.
2. Choose an appropriate date
Always check the calendar for major religious holidays and other events first. If your audience is international in nature you’ll have to expand the scope of your dates to avoid any clashes. For example, if you’re expecting important visitors from Asia and parts of the Far East the Lunar New Year week should be avoided.
3. Select a theme
The theme of your meeting or conference will become part of the branding for the event itself. If this is not a completely new meeting and conference it may be appropriate to just carry on existing themes for continuity and brand recognition advantages. For example, Fifth Symposium on Internet of Things Technologies.
4. Gather financial backing
Central to running any project successfully is budget management, and this is also true when you are planning a large scale meeting or conference too. Sponsors and co-sponsors may be sought and solicited, and any assistance in the form of direct cash contributions or materials and services needed to carry out the event should be warmly received.
Be clear how much funding and resourcing you have and prioritise how this should be spent and allocated. Also consider whether donations will be accepted, and if a registration fee should be charged for attendance.
5. Use the best venues and facilities
An impressive venue with state-of-the-art facilities are all very well, but if the location is inconvenient and people have difficulties getting to the venue turnout will be lower than if the event was held at a major transportation hub. If your event is international in outlook using the facilities close to an international airport is a must.
Don’t forget other factors such as hospitality arrangements (speaker pickups at airport), local transportation (ease of getting around and relative costs) and accommodation issues (quality and availability) will all determine the best place to host the conference. Choosing a well known location and venue for your event will ensure a high turnout and participation.
Meetings, seminars and training days can be hard work - and if there's one thing that makes hard work a little easier, it's being well looked after while you're doing it. At the Crown Plaza Hotel at London Heathrow, you'll find that there's a dedicated team of events staff whose entire job it to help you care for your delegates - and that includes making certain that they have enough to eat and drink. Of course, it's not all about the quantity; the quality of refreshments on offer is just as important!
Eat Well, Work Well
The hotel has developed a set of signature 'Eat Well, Work Well' menus that its experts claim will be able to help you and your delegates keep going all day long. All four of the set menu options contain a variety of choices, including plenty of vegetarian and vegan dishes as well as a few others that will be right for any palate or preference. If you're not sure which of these menus to choose, the hotel staff will be only too happy to help you decide.
Of course, in between times you'll be able to give your delegates constant access to complimentary tea, coffee and water - and we'll make sure that there's plenty of fruit and biscuits to nibble on in the morning, too. For a celebratory finish to a corporate event, one of our packages is able to offer beer and pizza to wrap things up at the end of a hard day or two's work.
Work Hard, Play Hard
One of the most compelling things about the meeting and seminar facilities available at Crowne Plaza London Heathrow is the breakout rooms, designed to give all your attendees somewhere to relax between meetings or during breaks. They're fully kitted out with tea and coffee facilities, vending machines, sofas and other seating, bookshelves, internet access, games consoles and a television - plus the occasional special little extra!
Relaxation is just as important a part of refreshment as foods and drinks are, so Crowne Plaza has been careful to provide excellent facilities in which to relax and unwind.
Your Event, Your Rules
As with all things, Crowne Plaza Heathrow strives to adhere to your policies and follow your lead. If your event is to be all-vegetarian, entirely alcohol-free or devoid of unhealthy snacks, the events team in situ will ensure that's precisely how it goes.
Considering the Possibilities
Not everyone has the same needs. While it isn't always possible to cater to absolutely everybody, it's important to spend some time thinking about the kinds of people who might attend and what they are likely to need.
- Parents of young children can't always leave them for extended periods of time. Are you able to consider crèche or childcare facilities, or simply provisions for parents to look after their own children during the event?
- Wheelchair access is more important than ever, and it is now mandated by law that you do everything you can to allow wheelchair users to attend your events. Crowne Plaza London Heathrow does a lot to help you with this - we have wide entrances, good ramps, large lifts and plenty of accessible rooms. You might need to think about things as well, though, like how to lay out the room to ensure that wheelchair users aren't brushed off to one side and whether or not a few extra temporary ramps might be needed.
- Wheelchair users are actually only a small minority of disabled people, and other disabilities should be given just as much thought. What can you do to help people with hearing or vision impairments? If you have chosen rooms that are a little way away from each other for your event, what can you do to help those with reduced mobility get between them without causing them stress or making them late?
- Even the healthiest and most completely able-bodied people in the world need to be able to rest, relax and unwind if they are to enjoy a productive day's work. Have you thought about how best to make use of the many excellent facilities for doing this at Crowne Plaza London Heathrow?
- It's just as important to look after yourself as it is to look after your delegates - after all, there's no seminar without you. Make sure that you've carefully considered how much time you will need to set up and pack away, and that you'll be getting breaks as well as scheduling them in for everyone else.