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Meeting & Event Planning For Dummies
By Susan Friedmann
John Wiley & Sons
Copyright © 2003
All right reserved.
Gearing Up for Meetings
In This Chapter
* Deciding whether a meeting or event is necessary
* Distinguishing between meetings and events
* Inviting the right participants
* Determining meeting length and location
* Asking for planning assistance
Meetings and events can be a total waste of time, or they can be powerful
and productive communication tools that solve problems, stimulate
ideas, promote team spirit, and generate action. The end results lie totally
in how they're run. These days, people seem to be meeting more, enjoying it
less, and growing increasingly frustrated that they have so little time to get
their "real" work done. Executives can spend as much as 50 percent of their
working hours in meetings, and much of that time is unproductive-often
it's wasted discussing irrelevant issues.
Having experienced the wonderful sense of satisfaction from productive sessions,
as well as the frustration and anger from ineffective sessions, I believe
the key to success lies in preparation and organization, as well as the actual
meeting management. In this chapter, I encourage you to makethoughtful
choices about when to hold meetings and events, and when to use other
means to accomplish your goals. I also begin to lay the groundwork for making
your business functions-from small meetings to international trade fairs-productive
Being Wise About Holding Meetings
Are meetings really necessary? Well, sometimes they are, and sometimes
they aren't. Wisdom lies in knowing the difference.
Humans need a connection with others to survive. I'm sure that, like me, you
may occasionally fantasize about being alone on a desert island, far away
from the trials and tribulations of everyday life. But people also need to
belong, communicate, and share a common purpose with like-minded individuals.
In essence, what this means is simply that meeting is a natural function
of our existence. In reality, doing things alone for any length of time is counterproductive.
Working in partnership with others and pooling resources can
lead to getting things done more effectively and efficiently.
People need to come together to share information, make decisions, plan,
discuss, argue, question, iron out differences, celebrate, gossip, chitchat,
schmooze, and much more. Families, schools, clubs, businesses, and governments
are key examples of groups of men, women, and children who regularly
come together for specific purposes.
These days, with the plethora of entrepreneurs operating home-based businesses
and employees telecommuting or working endless hours in front of
computer screens, meetings are becoming even more necessary for people's
survival. The need for human interaction is critical. In addition, meetings can
minimize or eliminate many time-wasting activities such as playing phone
tag, sending unnecessary e-mails, or exchanging volumes of paper. But, when
you consider the myriad business meetings held every year, many should
never (ever) take place. The $64,000 question is "When should you hold a
meeting or organize an event (and when should you not)?"
Choosing to hold a meeting or event
Deciding to hold a meeting or event demands serious consideration because
of the many costs involved, both direct and indirect. Direct costs include
travel, food, facility rental, and possibly lodging. Indirect costs include
people's time and lost productivity. (I cover costs in more detail in Chapter 14.)
People today suffer from time poverty-they don't have enough time to do
all the things they want and need to do. Based on this realization, the first
thing the person responsible for holding a meeting or event has to determine
is how necessary it is to meet. Use the following list to double-check your
rationale for holding a meeting or event. Some major reasons that justify getting
a group of people together include:
Breaking the meeting habit
Meetings can easily become addictive, but meeting for the sake of meeting is
not a productive use of time. Prioritization is key. You must decide whether a
potential meeting is a must-do, a should-do, or a nice-to-do-eeny meeny
miney mo. If any of the following apply to your situation, it's time to consider
an alternative to meeting. (For some suggestions, see Chapter 22.)
Focusing on Your Purpose
The adage "if you don't know where you're going, any road will take you
there" directly applies to knowing the purpose of your meeting or event.
Naturally, meetings and events can be held for myriad reasons. The key to
success is to be crystal clear about your purpose, aim, and end result. Clarify
in your own mind the acceptable outcomes. After you have determined
acceptable outcomes, your job is to communicate them to the people you
want to attend.
People hate being invited to a meeting and not knowing what will be
discussed-that's a sure way to start the rumor mill working overtime,
cause paranoia to set in, and give people a reason to start assuming the
worst. And if your target audience doesn't know the purpose of your event,
you can be certain they won't be attending.
To make sure that these scenarios don't occur, you must determine your justification
and motivation for holding a meeting or event. Ask yourself three
meeting or event?
The third question is a safety net that forces you to think about a contingency
plan. For example, just in case participants don't see eye to eye when
resolving issues or generating new ideas to move a project along, having a
prudent follow-up strategy can give you enormous peace of mind. As you
know, even the best-laid plans can often go astray.
Meetings and Events
A multitude of different meetings and events may require your planning
expertise. Table 1-1 shows some common business meetings and special
events. Although some gatherings clearly fall into one category or the other,
there can be some overlap. For example, a sales conference or product
launch might be considered a business meeting, or it could be considered a
special event-especially if it's held in an exotic location.
Figuring Out Who Should Be Involved
Before you decide who to invite to any meeting or event, revisit your purpose
and analyze who would be the very best people to help you achieve it. Don't
fall into the trap of inviting people just because you don't want to hurt their
feelings or because it's the politically correct thing to do. (For more on identifying
meeting participants, see Chapter 3.)
Keeping your meetings lean and mean
For the sake of efficiency and productivity, the fewer people involved in a
business meeting, the better. Keeping attendance to a minimum enables you
to keep the discussion as focused as a laser and get done what needs to get
done. Decide on the optimum number of people necessary to give you the
result you want. Research indicates that a group of ten is a recommended
size for general discussion. However, for making decisions and generating
ideas, five to eight is considered optimum.
As you think through your invitation list, remember that certain people
must attend, such as those who can help achieve your outcome or who play
an important influencing role. Add to that the people with specific expertise
who could improve the decision-making process. Also consider including
anyone who may be directly affected by decisions made. And finally, you
can't go wrong by including a good problem solver or idea generator.
If the purpose of the meeting is simply to impart one-way information to a
large group, then naturally everyone should be invited. But bear in mind that
a meeting's productivity is inversely proportional to the number of people
attending. According to research, when more than five people attend, the
meeting's productivity goes down exponentially.
Think twice about inviting those wonderful people who have a volatile or
dysfunctional personality or have a reputation for any kind of disruptive
behavior at meetings. Also avoid the naysayers. You're looking for positive,
constructive discussions rather than negative, destructive ones.
Identifying your event audience
Know your event objectives, and you'll know who belongs on the invitation
list. A few guidelines to think about include the following:
event itself. Potential persons include stockholders, upper management,
local dignitaries, key employees and their families, customers, and
radio, and TV-and include them on your invitation list.
Knowing How Long a Meeting
or Event Should Last
You may think that shorter meetings are more productive than longer ones.
However, research illustrates that longer meetings (especially those that last
five hours or more) are more likely to be productive than shorter meetings.
This doesn't mean that you have to turn all your one-hour meetings into five-hour
marathons, but you may want to look into having one long meeting
every quarter, for example, rather than holding short weekly or monthly
meetings. The end result may increase productivity dramatically.
In the meantime, for those of you who are addicted to the daily, weekly, or
monthly must-have meetings, remember to keep them short, sweet, and to
When it comes to events, keep in mind that no one wants to stay longer than
they have to. Meticulously plan the necessary activities that make up your
event. Encourage your speakers to keep their remarks short and sweet while
still accomplishing the event's goals. There's nothing worse than a civic
leader in love with his or her own voice droning on unnecessarily.
Finding the Right Setting
The meeting or event location can help make or break your success. The
location sets the stage and creates the right environment for the action to
happen. Budget, of course, plays a major role. Using your own internal conference
room saves money, but is it the right place to meet? Think about a
place that minimizes disturbances, offers comfort and convenience, meets
your equipment and space needs, and projects the right image. I cover large
and small meeting room layouts in Chapter 11.
You also have the choice of going the social route by using breakfast, lunch,
or dinner as a meeting time. If building and nurturing relationships is your
goal, consider doing business over a shared meal.
For larger events, match the meeting to the facility. For example, consider
using a corporate conference center or a secluded resort for training sessions,
and many large hotels are equipped for conferences. I discuss venue
options in detail in Chapter 5.
Getting Help When You Can
Meeting and event planning is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle: Hundreds
of pieces need to fit together for the picture to evolve. The planner or person
overseeing the project has multiple responsibilities related to the planning,
preparation, development, and execution of an event.
The key to success is really knowing your strengths and also knowing what
someone else can do best-in other words, what should be handled internally
and what should be contracted to outside experts. Recognize your limitations
and seek appropriate help where you can. Depending on your budget,
you can outsource many tasks, or maybe you can count on some hidden
talent within the four walls of your company. Put on your Sherlock Holmes
garb and investigate what gems lie in your own backyard! I give you a more
comprehensive understanding of outsourcing in Chapter 13.
Susan's simple three-step system
Before you devise your invitation list, try the following
three-step system for creating a lean
and mean list for optimal meeting productivity:
1. List everyone and anyone you think you
2. Go through each name and ask yourself
two questions: "What will/can this person
contribute to the meeting?" and "What
would happen if he/she didn't attend?"
3. Cut your list in half.
Alternatively, try this scenario: If you could
invite only three people to your meeting, who
would they be? Having this answer in mind
would certainly streamline your planning!
Excerpted from Meeting & Event Planning For Dummies
by Susan Friedmann
Copyright © 2003 by Susan Friedmann.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsIntroduction 1
Part I: Been to Any Good Meetings or Events Lately? 5
Chapter 1: Gearing Up for Meetings and Events 7
Chapter 2: Strictly Business: Knowing Your Meeting Type 17
Chapter 3: The ABCs of Meeting Preparation 25
Chapter 4: Mixing Business with Pleasure: Events 43
Chapter 5: Bringing an Event to Life 53
Part II: It's All Show Business 75
Chapter 6: Get Me to the Meeting on Time 77
Chapter 7: Food for Thought 91
Chapter 8: Great Speakers, Great Impressions 107
Chapter 9: It's the Extras That Count 121
Chapter 10: Is the Grass Greener Overseas? 129
Chapter 11: Lights, Camera, Action! 147
Part III: No Guts, No Story 163
Chapter 12: Nuts and Bolts: Negotiating, Contracting, and Ensuring Safety 165
Chapter 13: Working with Vendors 179
Chapter 14: Drinking Champagne on a Beer Budget 189
Part IV: Mission Possible: Building Bridges with Technology 201
Chapter 15: Making Meeting Technology Work for You 203
Chapter 16: This Phone's for You: Teleconferencing 215
Chapter 17: Videoconferencing Made Easy 225
Chapter 18: Holding Meetings Online 237
Part V: Exhibiting at Home and Abroad 245
Chapter 19: Planning for Gold: Exhibiting 101 247
Chapter 20: Strutting Your Stuff: Exhibiting 201 275
Chapter 21: Strutting Your Best Stuff Overseas: Exhibiting 301 285
Part VI: The Part of Tens 297
Chapter 22: Ten Alternatives to Meetings 299
Chapter 23: Ten Common Meeting Mistakes to Avoid 303
Chapter 24: Ten Top Negotiating Tactics 307
Part VII: Appendixes 311
Appendix A: Online Resources for Meeting and Event Planners 313
Appendix B: Checklist Heaven 331
What People are Saying About This
“…an excellent book…a useful addition to any firms bookshelf…” (Reading Chronicle, 6th October 2005)
"Practical step-by-step guide to the strategies and techniques event planning professionals use to bring people together." (Leisure News and Jobs, 11th August 2005)
"…comprehensively written…simplified as much as it possibly could without losing any attention to detail…" (M2 Best Books, May 2004)
‘This comprehensive resource is suitable for even the most novice planner and is written with Pas firmly in mind' (PA Life, January 2013)