7 Tips for Planning Your Next Meeting

September 13, 2017
By Michael Dominguez

I’ve attended many meetings over my career ranging from the well-organized brainstorm to internal meetings where the attendees spend more time looking at their phone than paying attention to their colleagues. As someone who has worked in the meetings industry my entire career I know that great things can happen when we bring people together face-to-face. Effective meetings that inspire participants, lead to innovation and create a sense of comradery require thoughtful planning. Below are several tips and tricks I’ve found effective over the years.

1. Start with something positive. Psychological experiments have shown that the way a meeting starts sets the tone for the entire gathering. Think about ways to energize and engage participants from the onset, with careful attention to who kicks off your meeting and how.

2. Prioritize goals, not agenda items. The challenge here is to provide enough structure to ensure your meeting is productive and enough flexibility to let the conversation lead you. Prior to the meeting, develop SMART goals and share them with participants. If appropriate, post the goals somewhere in the room and task a colleague to help move participants through a discussion of each goal, without worrying about whether the conversation has run a couple of minutes over the time allotted.

3. Personalize the experience. Draw on the culture and interests not only of your meeting participants, but also of your meeting location. A recent article by MeetingsNet notes that understanding how participants will “perceive, learn, and collaborate in different environments…is a key consideration. Light, air, sound, smell, touch, and even ‘white space’ or downtime can all be managed with intent.” Depending on your venue and invitees, technology can also offer a helping hand, whether it’s through a traditional slide presentation or augmented reality.

4. Provide commercial breaks. It’s easy for participants to succumb to information overload. Similar to your favorite sitcom, build in short stents for bathroom breaks, phone calls and checking emails. Consider ways you can provide informal reprieves by showing a relevant video clip, telling a short story or polling the room on a thought-provoking question.

5. Limit distractions. The attention span of most adults is only about 20 minutes. (According to research by the tech giant Microsoft, it may be as short as eight seconds!) One way to get the most out of your meeting is by encouraging participants to leave their devices at the door.

6. Use strategically placed silence. This will allow participants to process an important point and if appropriate, give them time to respond. Active listening is a common communications technique, and you’d be surprised how a few seconds of silence can make a big impact.

7. Demonstrate value. Reserve time at the end of your meeting to summarize why you brought participants together in the first place. Reflect on the meeting goals, key insights and proposed next steps. Explain how that interaction will help advance the long-term interests of those in the room and what expectations you have for follow-up or feedback.

Simply put, when colleagues meet, relationships are developed in a way that technology cannot recreate match. Face-to-face meetings play a critical role in connecting people and driving positive business results – regardless of your company, regardless of your industry.

Michael Dominguez is Senior Vice President and Chief Sales Officer for MGM Resorts International and member of the Meetings Mean Business Coalition.