March 10, 2010

On Site Meeting Management Tips

· Make sure all staff and volunteers have clearly defined roles, with detailed job descriptions and adequate pre-event training.
· When thinking about training staff and volunteers to do their onsite jobs consider different scenarios and provide answers to FAQs and their job duties in writing. This document can be modified for your meeting each year to reflect situations that arise onsite.
· Empower staff and volunteers to handle issues that arise in order to free your time to oversee the entire conference.
· Provide plenty of communication tools for the staff and volunteers, to include two-way radios, cell phone numbers for all key staff printed on a laminated card that can be slipped into their name badge holders, volunteer coordinators, runners, etc.
· For a large conference with many volunteers, set up a volunteer lounge where all volunteers check in and get their work assignments. Designate one or two staff or lead volunteers to staff this room and manage all volunteers, making sure they have checked in, give them any materials, provide them a contact person to contact and tell them how to ask for assistance. I like to stock the lounge with refreshments, provide pizza or box lunches, and make sure there is seating for them to take a lunch break, etc. Make sure volunteers know that any questions go to the lead volunteers in the lounge and only allow lead volunteers to contact you or come into the staff office to prevent being overrun.
· Provide staff and volunteers with a uniform, be it a bandana, t-shirt or polo shirt, to clearly identify them as part of the meeting management team.
· Hold daily staff meeting, either late at night or over an early breakfast each day to update people to changes, answer questions and find out what is working.
· Meet daily with the banquet manager and/or accounting office to review all charges and make corrections as needed to the master account. I find that meeting after the morning coffee break to review the previous days’ charges works well. Meeting daily on accounting issues makes for a much smoother processing of the master bill when it arrives at the office.
· Make sure you have a pre-con meeting with hotel staff, including any of your key staff or volunteers as needed. If the GM doesn’t attend the pre-con, ask to meet them the first day of the event so you have a contact name in case of issues. Even if it’s only a small meeting, I will meet with the CSM, AV and Banquet managers. If it’s a conference that will be returning to the property, consider a post-con meeting to review what worked well and areas for improvement.

Tips For Engaging Meeting Attendees

I just picked up an interesting new book, Death by Meetings: A Leadership Fable About Solving the Most Painful Process in Business by Patrick M. Lencioni, and if that title doesn’t give you an accurate picture of how most people tend to view meetings, than I don’t know what would. What can we as meeting organizers do to create meetings that our attendees will enjoy participating in rather than dreading each time they see a meeting notice?

Here’s some simple tips for engaging your meeting attendees and creating dynamic learning environments:
· Set your meeting space up using audience centered seating principles that focus on attendee comfort and ease of interaction. Paul O. Radde, PhD, has an excellent book, Seating Matters: State of the Art Seating Matters that explains this principle in detail and provides excellent diagrams you can provide to set-up crews. You can purchase the book through
· Engage all the audience’s senses: Use different colored linens, themed props, toys, scents, etc. to promote the atmosphere you want to create.
· Create visual interest by using colored paper for handouts.
· Enhance learning by using black, blue, green or purple for text on flip charts, alternating colors for contrast and highlighting with orange, red or pink
· Personalize name tags to encourage conversation by adding personal information, such as first concert attended, favorite childhood game, subject area I need help with, subject area I’m an expert in.
· Pump up the Volume! Use walk in and walk out music to set the tone for the meeting, this also helps promote group movement which helps when transitioning between sessions
· Keep attendees focused: Use a “power clap” to increase energy level in the room, refocus attendees and get attendees on the same wavelength. Take short energizing breaks during long presentations with short physical activity, such as stretching, doing the wave, shouting out favorite movie titles, etc.
· Make Sure Everyone is on the Same Track: Use cell phone text polling to collect audience feedback; for low cost audience polling check out
· Twitter: Assign your event a hash tag and encourage users to twitter about their experience while in the sessions. Use a twitter fountain for Q&A to capture and display questions from the audience during the session.