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Plan World-Class Meetings
Don't Overlook the Basics
Large, world-class meetings don't just happen. They result from very deliberate planning in pursuit of well-defined objectives. Once you've articulated the specific expectations for a given meeting, the task of organization begins. It is important that all individuals participating in the meeting, particularly those involved in planning and in presenting, understand their precise role in achieving stated expectations.
DEFINE THE AUDIENCE
Who will attend? Who should benefit? Is it the sales force, a group of managers, a group of customers, shareholders, or an audience of prospects? Is it the total sales force or only the top performers? Are those in attendance expected to take a message back to their staffs - or just benefit themselves? Are the customers present completely loyal or should they be considered as prospects for additional business? How much do you know about your prospects and their purchasing criteria?
Identifying an audience involves more than knowing names and numbers. Determining their experience and knowledge level, their professionalism, and their prejudices and habits - all enable the meeting planning process to be deliberate and targeted. Spend some time identifying what motivates and challenges your audience, and what approach may reach them best.
DEFINE EXPECTATIONS & OBJECTIVES
Ask the basic question - What do you want this audience to KNOW, FEEL and/or DO differently when they leave your meeting? Be very specific. Vague, obscure, non-specific objectives will allow your presenters to deliver vague, obscure, non-specific presentations!
World-class meetings should always include an educational component, numerous skill-building components, and a recognition component. The transfer of information and data is continuous with today's communications technologies, but face-to-face communications opportunities should be used to place personal, well-structured 'angles' on important statistics. A meeting environment should also be used to accomplish 'impression-making' objectives that cannot be accomplished with faxes, electronic mail and telephone calls.
Presenters must be challenged to interact with audiences in ways other than one-way speaking! Most importantly, the audiences should leave the meeting feeling equipped to accomplish mutual objectives. Merely 'hearing' an objective is not adequate - 'understanding' an objective is not adequate - feeling able and 'equipped' to reach the objective is necessary.
Agenda development should begin with the prioritizing of topics - not with the accommodation of certain individuals because of their position or title. Priority subjects are those that impact what you want your audience to KNOW, FEEL and/or DO differently when they leave. Assuming what an audience understands may lead to omitting an important topic from an agenda. Likewise, using last years' agenda will simply duplicate last years' meeting. A carefully structured presentation on every topic relevant to your company's growth should be considered.
In a 'sales' meeting, for example, subjects to be addressed should include your company's competitive environment, marketplace position and objectives, current differentiation from the customer point-of-view, regulatory and legal issues, new product and/or service announcements, new and/or changing selling strategies, and, of course, training and skills development.
Only after identifying the proper topics and prioritizing them should the task of selecting presenters begin. Obviously, the best presenter for a given topic should be chosen - but what is the criteria to be used in determining the best presenter? Three issues must be considered, 1] knowledge of the topic, 2] personal presentation skills and 3] position within the company. Unfortunately, number 3 is often given the most weight.
If knowledge is strong and position is high, but skills are lacking, the question of 'coachability' must be discussed. If the individual is willing to participate in professional speechwriting/organizing activity and will work with a meeting planner, success can be achieved. Likewise, if presentation skills are strong and position is high, but subject knowledge is lacking, a professional speechwriter/meeting planner can easily build an effective presentation.
Many techniques can be used to deliver effective presentations. The use of case studies and testimonials, outside experts and consultants, role-playing, 'planted' questions, and executives in non-traditional roles, can each spark excitement and enhance learning. Make sure you maximize your opportunity by selecting the best presenter for the given topic and constructing his or her presentation carefully.
TIMING / SCHEDULE / DESTINATION
Tradition may dictate the usual time of year for your meeting. Is it the best time? Seasonal considerations or selling cycles should suggest a logical time to pull your sales force out of the field or the best time to approach customers. A link to an industry event may encourage attendance and/or reduce costs. Shareholder meeting scheduling is usually dictated by year-end timing. More critical than the time of year is the absolute mandate that everyone in the audience feel, at the conclusion of the meeting, that it was well worth their time! A meeting that fails to achieve common, mutual objectives is a waste of everyone's time.
Like the time of year, the length of the meeting and the unstructured time during the meeting should be carefully planned along with the agenda and topics. Time for networking, learning from peers, relaxation and free time must be balanced.
The choice of destination and 'style' of facility should be carefully chosen to be compatible with the specific objectives enumerated earlier. Choosing a resort for it's 'assumed' public relations value is as dangerous as taking people where they don't want to go. The 'message' sent by the choice of destination is critical to credibility. Obviously on-site costs and travel expenses are also a significant consideration.
To support the objectives and expectations for the meeting, a theme is usually developed to tie together all of the presentations, workshops and activities. A successful theme is one that the audience remembers, repeats and utilizes in the time following the meeting as day-to-day activities are performed. You should insist on clearly defined meeting objectives and then design the theme and every element of a meeting with these objectives in mind.
ASSIGN SOMEONE TO BE IN CHARGE
Committees are necessary for some endeavors - but someone must be the ultimate internal coordinator. This person should work well with outside resources, be extremely organized, and have the respect of management and the chosen presenters. It will be this person that maintains schedules, reminds all participants of deadlines and monitors the activities of outside resources.
Contact us for assistance in developing presentations that work!
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