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How to Plan a Small Meeting

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The process of planning a small meeting.

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Even the smallest business meetings require proper planning to insure all of the needs and objectives are met for everyone involved. To be efficient, there is an order of operations that should be followed to prevent details from slipping through the cracks. Listed below are some essential steps to follow for planning your next small meeting.

Step 1: Choose Your Topic and Location
This step represents the two variable that your audience will want to know before anything else. The “where and why” of the meeting will instantly impact who will be invited and whether or not they will attend.

Step 2: Identify Participants
A big part of running a focused and productive meeting is avoiding distractions, and that means limiting invites to the top decision makers. There is a tendency in corporate culture to include all related parties in communications, but you can boost production by eliminating associates who could slow progress with unimportant discussions. Instead of inviting non-voting participants, encourage key attendees to talk with their subordinates before coming to the meeting.

Step 3: Offer Three Dates and Times
Be careful about how you inquire about each attendee’s availability. It is easy to open a “Pandora’s box” of issues when it comes to scheduling a mutually beneficial date for your meeting. One way to avoid this is to offer a few dates and times, then ask each person which one works best. If you are lucky then one of the dates will match for everyone. If not, don’t be afraid to ask the outliers if they can adjust their calendar to accommodate the majority.

Step 4: Create an Itinerary
It is crucial to have a schedule for what topics will be discussed along with who will lead each segment of the meeting. Planners may need to seek advice from the top executives in order to accurately create an itinerary. Once the first draft is completed it should be submitted to the group for approval.

Step 5: Discuss Presentation Needs
There are plenty of different ways to present ideas to the group, and each scheduled speaker is going to have their own preference. PowerPoint functionality, internet access, and white boards are just some of the components you might need to arrange for. Be proactive in requesting these details, and follow up to confirm them a few days before the meeting.

Step 6: Schedule Catering
The key to ordering food for small meetings is to keep the menu functional. You don’t want the catering to interfere with any aspect of the business at hand, so avoid overly formal meals if possible. If a sit-down lunch is requested then try to book an adjacent room for the meal so that attendees can get back to the meeting as soon as possible.

Step 7: Send Final Details
Approximately seven days before the event you want to send a final copy of the itinerary and details to each participant. This should include everything that has been ordered for the day. Also include directions, parking information, room numbers and emergency contacts. If you are working with executives then copy their administrative assistants on the email as well.

Step 8: Meeting Day
As the meeting planner, it is your job to make sure the event gets kicked off successfully. Of course you’ll want to arrive on-site early to inspect the room and meet with the catering and A/V coordinators. Depending on the location, you might also want to post signage so that everyone finds their way to the room.

And there you have it - eight relatively simple steps to planning a successful small meeting.

Executing each step will obviously take time and diligence on your part, but communicating your plans to the attendees is half the battle. The more people know what to expect from the meeting, the more prepared they will be to get down to business.

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