Corporate Meetings and Retreats

Your Guide to Planning a Productive and Engaging Event

March 12, 2014

Meetings don’t have to be a snoozefest. In this special section, we offer tips and tricks to help you plan and execute a productive and engaging meeting or retreat. On page 82, you’ll find go-to advice for facilitating an event. From creating a timeline to selecting the right venue, these tips will help you lead a productive discussion. On page 84, learn how plan and pull off a successful one-day retreat that balances business with fun. And, don’t forget the food! On page 86, you’ll find tips to add a little flavor to your meeting. Whether gathering for a quick meeting or an out-of-the-office retreat, use this guide to plan a memorable event that is productive, engaging and fun.

Let’s Meet: Keys for Leading a Successful Meeting

By John Coon

Attending a meeting that has no purpose or structure can feel like a waking nightmare. Watching the clock becomes the focus instead of listening to the speaker. It’s a drain on time and energy for every-one involved.

Novice meeting facilita-tors can avoid this trap by using a better road map for creating an effective meeting. Their main goal should be to turn it into an event that feels productive, informative and engaging for the intended audience.

“A good meeting is where your message is clear, people understood it and they got something out of it,” says Danny Findley, president of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of Meeting Professionals International. “It also has some action items come out of it. It’s not just a meeting where people listened and nothing gets done.”

Even if you are running the show at a company meeting for the first time, a few tricks of the trade can make your meeting run as smoothly as a brand-new engine.

Select the Right Venue

Location is not just a selling point in real estate. If you book a conference room that seats 45 people and 60 end up attending, that can be a recipe for discomfort.

The ambiance also can make a major difference in how a meeting feels. It might be more inviting to use a smaller room featuring cabaret tables or lounge furniture, rather than a large room with rows of chairs arranged theater style in front of a central podium.

If a long-standing meeting has grown stale, testing out a different meeting space might breathe new life into it. “It’s more engaging and more welcoming,” Findley says. “You walk into a room where it’s just rows of chairs and you think it’s just going to be a boring lecture. You have to really keep that in mind.”

Get Everything in Working Order

Will your meeting require a projector or microphone for speeches or presentations? It’s a good idea to make sure those things work ahead of time. Nothing spells disaster faster than having audio/visual equipment that fails in the hour it is needed. This can create a barrier between the speakers and their audience.

Meeting facilitators should iron out all the little details—from having enough food and drink for attendees to having a working microphone—well before the day of the meeting.

“You can tell it’s a good meeting that’s been planned when there’s not a lot of rush right before the meeting,” says Tracie Tuft, executive meeting manager for the Utah Valley Convention Center. “You don’t have someone coming up and saying, ‘We need more AV’ or ‘We need additional water.’ If you don’t have those things coming up, then you can tell you’ve done a good job at communicating and planned the event well.”

Think about your Audience

Meetings become ineffective when the content of the meeting is not tailored to the audience. Findley suggests that meeting facilitators take time to peek inside the heads of their intended audience. Tailoring a message to how an audience learns can result in more action and fewer meetings down the road.

“If you’re doing the right content and you’re doing the right learning atmosphere, you can pretty much cover it in one meeting,” Findley says. “You can really take care of it. It pretty much depends on what you want to accomplish.”

Involve Social Media

Business meetings in the digital age do not require a large group all gathering in the same place. Social media channels allow meeting facilitators to take their meeting to where employees are—without being constrained by geographic boundaries.

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