The meeting planner
To effectively plan and organise meetings for multiple employees, businesses or clients you need to use a range of different skills and resources. Understanding how to ensure each participant is correctly informed of the time, place and date of each meeting is vital and will allow you to ensure each person is able to attend the scheduled meeting with no absentees.
Without correct planning, the people who are due to meet may not know the place, time or day which they are meant to be getting together and this would therefore have a big impact on the attendance levels. Without the correct planning and scheduling systems, the entire process would become very chaotic and ineffective.
The date and time of a meeting should always be documented, as should the people in attendance and all points of discussion. Outcomes and agreements should then be marked down as well as any future meetings that are agreed to take place after the present one.
Many organisations use diary systems for their staff so that each person understands where and when they must attend meetings in any given day. This could be a manual, hand written diary, which are normally held in a reception area for easy access, or an electronic system that will link to email addresses and phone numbers of employees. It is obviously very important that you have a good understanding of how your organisation plans meetings and who must be notified of any times when an employee is in a meeting. These systems will ensure that:
- Attendees for a meeting will understand their own diaries and will not miss any appointments.
- All activities, events and purposes of meetings are understood.
- Managers know where different members of their team are at all times.
- Resources are properly shared such as office space, rooms, catering facilities, projectors etc.
Taking a well-thought-out, logical approach to organising meetings is the best way to ensure each person understands the needs of the group and why, when and where they will be meeting.
When planning meetings back-to-back you must ensure that you anticipate the length of each accurately and factor in a certain amount of time in case the meeting overruns.
At the venue
After planning an appointment for a specific time and place you need to ensure that the venue is suitable. If you are hosting the meeting, then you must arrive early and before any other attendees. Arriving late to your own meeting or office will look very unprofessional and result in people quickly losing confidence in your abilities. Upon arrival, the room must be checked fully to make sure it is correctly laid out and to the right standard for the type of meeting that is taking place. This check will include:
- The furniture present and layout of this.
- All resources are working such as projectors, microphones and any other equipment.
- The room is generally clean and tidy and has no hazards such as wires, wet floors or fault appliances.
- That there is plenty of lighting in the room.
- That the temperature is suitable and can be controlled should this be required at a later time.
- That the access and signage is sufficient so that attendees will be able to make their way to the right area.
- That any catering arrangements are in place and refreshments are laid out or being prepared for later.
You should also make sure that you liaise with others who are hosting or the company who you have hired a room from. This will enable you to gain any further knowledge about the venue and find out about issues that could affect the meeting from taking place. This could include any scheduled fire drills, if visitors require passes or if people will need to sign in.
Once all of the housekeeping and administrative duties are taken care of then the venue will be ready to host the meeting and you can ensure that you are prepared for everyone’s arrival. Decide where each person will be seated (especially if there are some attendees which will be presenting or pitched to) so that the layout of the room is relevant to the meeting.
Copies of documents
Make sure that you have copies of the following for each person:
- The agenda of the meeting. This is in case anyone forgets theirs and you can then quickly hand them a copy which will outline the topics for discussion.
- Any files of documentation that will be considered during the meeting. This may relate to products, goods, finances or anything else related to the meeting that is to take place and will ensure that each person can have their own copy of information that is relevant to proceedings.
- Stationary items or paper that are to be used by people at the meeting.
- All other paperwork which is laid out in a logical order so that people can refer to this at any point during the meeting or afterwards.
Final last minute checks will allow you to ensure any software, computers or equipment is working correctly as you do not want to disrupt the flow of a meeting by checking these things. Files should be easily accessible on a computer and software preloaded so that people are not kept waiting for any presentations or demonstrations that have been set up.
So far, we have looked at the organisation of a meeting and the need for an agenda but have not discussed the finer points of what is to be included in an agenda. The need for this document is to outline exactly what is up for discussion and structure the discussions so that the meeting has a clear format. The usual inclusion for an agenda will be:
- Initial introductions and apologies from any absentees – This will outline who is present and who could not make the meeting so that everyone is familiar with the other people present.
- Minutes from previous meetings – A review of any previous meetings and what was discussed and decided.
- Reports and main discussions – The main reasons for the meeting are to be discussed in detail and any specific talks are held. The specific purpose of the meeting is addressed here.
- Regular discussions – This will only take place with meetings that happen at regular intervals and will address issues that are continual and always require discussion such as the sales since the previous meeting, growth and profits.
- Other issues – After all has been discussed it is good to have an opportunity for people to ask questions and bring up any issues that they feel need to be settled.
When writing an agenda, you need to make sure you tackle the most important aspects early on. This will allow the majority of the time to discuss the most pressing issues and come to a solution before moving on to other areas which may not be quite as important. If the main aspects of the meeting can be split down, then it is also a good idea to tackle any issues that require the whole group first. This way the entire group will be engaged from the very start rather than having some specialist employees work on a problem leaving others to wait until they can contribute to proceedings.
It may be that you decide upon a strict schedule for the meeting if there are lots of issues up for discussion and only a limited time. In this case, you should include strict time restraints on the agenda so that each person knows the amount of time they can speak about a topic and any deadlines for decisions that must be made.
Meeting the needs of attendees
If you are the organiser of a meeting, you must always ensure that the needs of each attendee are met. This will likely require you to find out any special needs that are required in the form of parking spaces, disabled entrances or special dietary requirements to notify caterers of. You must find out about the meeting area and check that there are the following:
- Disabled access for anyone who may require this.
- If there are any attendees with hearing or sight difficulties. This will likely result in the need for extra measures to be taken for presentations so that every person is well informed.
- If there are any special dietary requirements of people in attendance and that the catering in place is suitable.
In order to clarify all of these points you must liaise with the venue and other organisers and ensure each need is sufficiently met. When sending out invitations to the meeting you must make it clear the additional measures that have been put into place for those people who are attending and ask about any other special requirements that may be needed. Stating the parking facilities, disabled entrances etc. As well as the time and place of the meeting will let people know that their needs have been met. As well as this you should state if there will be any catering and request that anyone with special dietary requirements get in touch should they wish for an alternative option to be available.
Health and Safety requirements
Health and safety is far from the most glamorous aspect of organising a meeting between business people, but it is a necessary precaution that needs to be taken. Having the correct health and safety procedures in place will ensure that you have put in adequate protection for those in attendance and have safeguarded against potential hazards and risk.
Under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, all employers must keep their business premises safe, tidy and secure at all times and ‘ensure so far as reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare of employees at work’. This will include any trip hazards, the temperature of the location as well as a clean and safe environment.
When planning for a meeting you should ensure that a health and safety check is carried out. For larger organisations these may have to be documented and filed, however, for smaller enterprises, a simple visibility check will suffice.
Briefing the chair
One or two days before a meeting is due to take place it is usually a good idea to brief the chair of the meeting. This will provide this person with any relevant information that they need such as:
- Who will be in attendance and who will not be able to make the meeting.
- Updates on any information that has arisen.
- Any potential issues or problems that may have come about.
- Any new attendees that may be invited to the meeting.
- All the information required to conduct the meeting and what is needed.
- Any specific things that the chair will need to mention at the meeting.
The chairperson will then possess all of the relevant information and notes that they need to ensure the meeting goes according to plan. The full agenda and plan for the meeting will be in place so that the chair can conduct proceedings and ensure the right outcomes are agreed upon.
Legal implications of meetings
When writing minutes during a meeting they must be accurate and reliable. Not doing this can make a difference to the legal standpoint of a company and clear minutes can be used to ensure that an organisation works within the law. Minutes serve as an official documentation of what occurs in a meeting and should be used as a record of what is discussed by different parties. Including too much detail can actually be unwise for a company though as information could be used against the company in a legal sense.
Minutes are often taken in general or board meetings and will show that an organisation is operating to certain standards (this is especially important for incorporated companies). Basic information that should be included in minutes will include:
- The time, date and location of the meeting.
- Who is in attendance.
- The purpose of the meeting.
- Actions taken by individuals in the meeting.
One other thing that should be recorded in a meeting is the outcome of any voting and a record who voted in different directions (if this is agreed to be relevant and not anonymous).
If a company falls into legal complications, minutes can serve as documents that will help an investigation. Therefore, when taking minutes for a company it is important to document what is said but not include unnecessary information that could be used against the organisation in the future. Usually minutes would not include much detail about debates as this could seem as though those in attendance were arguing and could not agree on how best to move forward. For example, a debate about health and safety in a college meeting may go against those in attendance if a pupil hurts themselves and decides to sue, as they can state that poor health and safety was acknowledged in a previous meeting.