Sunday, July 6, 2008

Great Meetings Achieve Success At Your Next Event Or Meeting

Writen by Stephen Woessner

A myriad of risks threaten the success of events and meetings, including lack of rehearsal time, itinerary changes, equipment failures, and other factors. Here are eight proven tips to make your next event or meeting a great one.

Before the event

1. Conduct several pre-meeting planning sessions. During these planning sessions, take the time to prepare a concise agenda of issues that need to be discussed and an action plan regarding who needs to make what decisions. For example, what is the complete itinerary of the event; how many rooms will be needed for the general session and the workshops; what is the layout of each room; will there be a stage play or entertainment during the opening of the meeting; will there be an awards ceremony; what are the needs for sound, video projection, lighting, Internet access, and so forth. In addition, these planning sessions are the best time to determine the size of the technical staff and production crew needed to properly operate all of the audio and visual equipment for the event. This will help avoid unnecessary labor costs later on in the process.

These planning sessions are also the best time to discuss the need for equipment and backups in the case of equipment failure, which unfortunately seems to happen at the most inopportune times. For equipment backups, companies should require that the bare minimum of a backup computer, data projector, and microphones are available in case of a problem. Determining a precise equipment checklist during the planning sessions helps avoid renting unnecessary equipment and keeps costs down.

Overall, the pre-meeting planning process helps make sure that the meeting accomplishes the company's vision and expectations, while keeping equipment and labor costs inline with requirements. The process requires discipline and, if done properly, provides the greatest return on investment from reviewing even the minutest details.

2. Negotiate audio/visual equipment rental costs. It is a good idea to use the equipment supplied by in-house audio/visual (A/V) department for the hotel or resort, or another local equipment supplier whenever possible. With that said, however, company meeting planners should carefully negotiate equipment rental costs. At times, in-house A/V departments charge fees that provide hotels with lucrative gross margins on rentals. This does not mean that one should demand price slashing, although it does mean there is likely room to reduce rental costs.

Success depends on asking a lot of questions and referring to the equipment checklist developed during the planning sessions, in order to avoid any unnecessary items, while ensuring to not compromise equipment redundancy. Also, remain cognizant of unnecessary labor charges during the setup of equipment at the event, especially if company personnel will be onsite. There is no need for duplication of effort and this can provide cost savings.

3. Promote and communicate with attendees. Aside from increasing event attendance, promoting the event or meeting will help build excitement and interest among attendees. It is easy to overlook the importance of pre-event promotion, especially if attendance is mandatory. Effective promotion helps ensure that the attendees are on the same page regarding the objectives and expectations of the event.

4. Hire a professional to develop the presentation support materials. It is difficult to financially justify an executive of a company investing many hours into the development of PowerPoint® presentation(s) or other support materials. This is, however, often the case. Instead, it is important to recognize that PowerPoint is a presentation support tool, not the presentation. It is much more logical, and fiscally responsible, for executives and/or presenters to define the content of their presentation and then turn it over to a capable designer for implementation. This frees up more rehearsal time for the presenter, and the designer will likely deliver a higher-quality PowerPoint in less time. This process leads to a more effective delivery of the presentation because more rehearsal time was available.

5. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse! The importance of presenter rehearsal is impossible to understate. The timing of the rehearsal is also critical. Once presenters are onsite, there is very little time available for rehearsal. Because of this time constraint, rehearsal must take place well in advance of the presenter's arrival. Aside from the lack of time, on-site rehearsal adds costs to the event. For example, if a presenter decides to make changes to a PowerPoint during equipment setup, this could potentially slow down the process or, even worse, affect room configurations. With that said, time needs to be allocated to test the presentations from a technical standpoint to ensure that all of the video, PowerPoint, Flash™ animations, Web links, and so forth, work properly.

6. Produce an energizing opening. An effective opening video, stage play, or live entertainment engages attendees and separates them from their daily distractions and demands at the office. The opening of the meeting gets them focused on the objectives for the event or meeting. It is also critical to get all of the attendees on the same page so they know what to expect over the next several days. The opening of the meeting is the proper time for this to happen. A well-produced opening is effective at energizing attendees to participate and getting them ready to contribute toward the success of the meeting.

During the event

7. Thoroughly inspect the location and supervise equipment setup. The planning team from the company needs to inspect the meeting rooms and develop a precise understanding of the power and lighting layouts and existing A/V (audio visual) capabilities, and to test the equipment that was selected for the event. This is true for the general session and any workshops, leaving no detail to chance. This inspection is not micro-managing the setup performed by the A/V team. Instead, it is the last opportunity to ensure that the selected equipment will achieve the expectations of the event.

After the event

8. Give survivability to the message! This can include producing a closing wrap video and distributing VHS, DVD, or streamed versions of the content to audience members, and to those who could not attend, following the event. This helps the good karma established during the meeting to live on and transfer the message to a broader audience. Survivability of the message adds value to the meeting.

In closing, the more experienced one becomes, the easier it is to overlook the core aspects of what is truly important during event or meeting planning. Incorporating these proven tips into a concise event or meeting planning process can make the difference between a great meeting and mediocrity!

The AVS Group is a marketing, training, and communications company. AVS is in La Crosse, Wisconsin. AVS helps clients communicate and market effectively. AVS can be found online at

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