9 Meeting Planning Mistakes to Avoid

To ensure that meetings flow smoothly and achieve desired results, there are a number of things to keep in mind. Ultimately, it is the most senior executive present who has the ability to support or pull the plug on a meeting. A carefully crafted agenda delivered at an appropriate venue are keys for the success of any meeting.

Bearing this in mind, here are some common pitfalls to avoid when designing and running meetings.

  1. Failing to Stage Manage the Senior Management Team.
    This is a major #fail. If the meeting planner does not get buy-in from this level of management, executives who just turn up for the meeting can easily derail it. They can make comments that undermine the facilitator, agendas can be set aside, ;and they can make last minute changes in food and beverage arrangements that disrupt the flow of the meeting. It is important to remember that the most senior person present is the meeting sponsor.
  2. Setting Unrealistic Time Frames.
    Time frames that are unrealistically short are one of the most common reasons that meetings go off track. If participants feel rushed and pressured, their level of engagement will decrease.
  3. Packing the Agenda.
    Yes, the pressure to design shorter meetings is real but it is important to have realistic expectations about what can and cannot be accomplished in a given time-frame.
  4. Failing to make meetings interactive.
    With all of the research available about adult learning, this is inexcusable.
  5. Skipping Site Inspections.
    When budgets are tight, clients often try to cut corner sby foregoing site inspections for foreign meetings. Here are some alternatives:

    • take advantage of the time you spend at foreign destinations to do site inspections
    • engage an event planner or DMC at the destination to conduct the site inspection
    • involve the tourist board or convention bureau (some will do site inspections)
  6. Selecting the Wrong Venue.
    All too often, the venue is selected before decisions are made about the meeting content and design. This can present a number of challenges. For example, space may be insufficient for breakout exercises. If the room is to small, then set-up may be restricted to theater style set-up. This brings us to the next meeting mistake.
  7. Using the Wrong Meeting Room Configuration.
    If the goal is to encourage interaction between meeting participants, opt for half rounds or squares. Rectangular tables are rarely used but they work really well for group exercises. Alternatively, use a U-shaped configuration and break-out rooms or tables for group exercises.
  8. Failing to Identify and Accommodate Special Needs.
    There should never be surprises in this area. Well in advance of the meeting, it is essential to:

    • ensure accessibility for all participants
    • identify participants with allergies or special dietary needs and work with the chef to accommodate their needs
  9. Giving Poor Attention to Audio-visual Requirements.
    Don’t assume that the supplier knows what you need. Review all requirements and identify clearly when and how projectors, microphones and other event technology will be used. The day of the meeting is too late to find out that audio-visual is insufficient for the needs of the group.

Written by Anne Thornley-Brown.